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How to Create a Strategic Plan
Looking for a way to take your company in a new and profitable direction? It starts with strategic planning. Keep reading to learn what a strategic plan is, why you need it and how you can strategically create one.
What Is a Strategic Plan?
When it comes to business and finance, strategic planning will help you allocate your resources, energy and assets. When implemented, a strategic plan will begin to move your operations in a more profitable direction. The primary goal of the plan is to ensure you and any other stakeholders are on the same page and striving to reach the same goal.
Creating a strategic plan requires a disciplined effort. Once you put the plan into action, it will influence the segment of customers that you target, how you serve those customers and the experience those customers have.
Assess the Current Infrastructure and Operations
The first step in creating a strategic plan is to carefully assess your existing infrastructure and operations. You can do this through a SWOT analysis, which is an analysis of the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The goal here is to pinpoint the resources that you use to carry out your day-to-day operations, to look at your monthly revenue patterns, to list any company challenges related to the customer experience and, most importantly, to look at your marketing methods and ways to improve the overall customer experience.
Creation of Mission Statement and Objectives
The next step is to create a mission statement. You may already have one, but it’s important to note your mission at the top of the strategic plan document you create. This ensures everyone is focused on the same goal. Your mission statement should cover why you started the company and what you intend to accomplish through the products and services that you offer.
In addition to the mission statement, make sure to outline both short- and long-term objectives. List the objectives according to their priority and designate certain managers or employees to be responsible for each one. Also, jot down the resources that will be used to achieve each objective.
Now that you know what you’re trying to achieve and who is responsible for each goal, it’s time to deploy the plan and measure its progress. A weekly meeting is extremely important for all managers and stakeholders provide feedback. Your goal is to determine if the company is headed in the right direction. If not, you’ll need to revise the strategic plan accordingly.
Strategic Plans Are Ongoing
Once your strategic plan helps you achieve several objectives, it’s smart to regroup and set new objectives. As your company grows, you can set new goals to ensure the company keeps moving forward. You can share the success of your strategic plan with potential investors as a way to tap into new capital funding.
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Strategic Analysis and Planning
16/08/2012 by Mike Morrison 12 Comments
When to use Strategic Analysis
Strategic planning is the process of developing a shared vision of your organization’s future and deciding upon the major steps you will take to move the organization in that direction. A strategic analysis is one of the key phases and requirements to the development of any strategic plan.
The strategic planning process determines:
(1) what your organization wants to achieve, usually expressed as strategic objectives and
(2) how you will direct the organization and its resources towards achieving these objectives over the next several years, usually expressed as strategic actions.
Such planning usually requires that decisions have been or are taken about:
- Your organization’s Vision and Mission .
- Whom you will serve – your so-called target customer or client group.
- Your organization’s “added value” (what marketing people might call your USP or Unique Selling Point).
- The kind of programmes, services or products you will develop and offer.
- The resources needed to deliver successfully – people, money, expertise, relationships, facilities, etc. and a realistic assessment of how much resource will be available over time.
How you can best combine these resources, programmes and relationships to accomplish your Mission in general and your new strategic objectives specifically.
Is strategic planning and analysis only appropriate for whole organization planning?
Strategic planning can be used effectively by whole organizations, by divisions or departments within an organization or by a number of organizations working together on one initiative. Whatever the scale of the plan, it is the Master Plan from which day to day operational plans are derived. having an appropriate analysis of “where we are now” out of an analysis process is critical.
Why have a strategy?
Having a strategic plan helps to ensure not only that you have long term direction but that your organization’s programmes, projects and day-to-day decisions fit in with these long term interests of your organization. A strategic plan also encourages people to work together towards common aims and to recognise what their organization is all about and how their own efforts – however small – contribute to achievements at the highest level.
What are the characteristics of a good strategist?
Every organization needs good strategists. A good strategist:
- looks ahead to where s/he wants to be and plans accordingly
- balances short and long-term needs
- sees problems as opportunities to improve
- can identify issues and choices to be made before they become critical
- keeps calm when the unexpected occurs
- is a team player
- is a skilled communicator and can inspire others with his/her vision for the future.
How is strategic planning linked to programme planning?
This is a critical question for every organization. Many inexperienced organizations design project proposals/ new project (service) launches in response to a perceived need but without sufficient consideration of their own capabilities and resources.
What are the potential benefits of strategic planning?
Strategic planning can help your organization in a number of critical ways:
- Improved results and confidence. Thinking about your vision of the future, setting of objectives and planning and monitoring accordingly can positively influence organizational performance and can contribute to a greater sense of purpose, progress and accountability.
- Focus. It is easy to lose all sense of organizational purpose and direction in the pre-occupation of day-to-day management. Good strategic planning forces future thinking and can refocus and re-energise a disorientated organization.
- Problem solving. Strategic planning focuses on an organization’s most critical problems, choices and opportunities.
- Teamwork: Non-Government Organizations usually involve people throughout the organization in developing their strategic plan. Strategic planning provides an excellent opportunity to build a sense of teamwork, to promote learning, and to build commitment across the organization. As a clear direction develops for the organization, people usually become committed to this direction if they have contributed significantly in forming it.
- Communication. Board members, staff, funders and other stakeholders are all interested in where the organization is heading and how their contribution will fit. Increasingly funders ask that an organization has a strategic plan in place as a condition of continued support. This requirement is likely to continue given the shift in emphasis from projects to longer-term relationships.
- Greater influence. Strategic planning can help an organization provide greater influence over its circumstances and the environment in which it operates, rather than simply responding to an unending series of problems.
What are the potential limitations of strategic planning?
- Costs can outweigh benefits . Strategic planning can consume a lot of time and money. This can be wasteful if the strategic planning is not successful.
- Poor plans may be developed . Faulty assumptions about the future, poor assessment of an organization’s capabilities, poor group dynamics and information overload can lead to the development of poor plans.
- Stability is important. Organizations need some stability in order to get through a strategic planning process or make very good use of such planning. “Now” is not always the right time for an organization to embark on a strategic planning programme.
- Implementation may be unlikely. If leaders have little intention of following through on plans, it may be wiser not to ask people to invest time and energy in such planning. Disillusionment, cynicism and feelings of powerlessness often result if people have contributed energy and ideas to a plan which ultimately is not implemented.
Tools used for strategic analysis
The proven ways are often the best. The often understood SWOT in association with PESTLE (PEST) and PRIMO-F are important, practical and yet efficient frameworks, and should not be overlooked just because “they have been around for a long time”. These apparently simple tools have a depth that many without experience often offer look, and as a consequence the value of these approaches is often misunderstood.
About Mike Morrison
Mike is a consultant and change agent specialising in developing skills in senior people to increase organizational performance. Mike is also founder & director of RapidBI, an organizational effectiveness consultancy. Check out his linkedin profile MikeMorrison LinkedIn Profile
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The process of conducting research on a company and its operating environment to formulate a strategy
What is Strategic Analysis?
Strategic analysis refers to the process of conducting research on a company and its operating environment to formulate a strategy. The definition of strategic analysis may differ from an academic or business perspective, but the process involves several common factors:
- Identifying and evaluating data relevant to the company’s strategy
- Defining the internal and external environments to be analyzed
- Using several analytic methods such as Porter’s five forces analysis, SWOT analysis , and value chain analysis
What is Strategy?
A strategy is a plan of actions taken by managers to achieve the company’s overall goal and other subsidiary goals. It often determines the success of a company. In strategy, a company is essentially asking itself, “Where do you want to play and how are you going to win?” The following guide gives a high-level overview of business strategy, its implementation, and the processes that lead to business success.
Vision, Mission, and Values
To develop a business strategy, a company needs a very well-defined understanding of what it is and what it represents. Strategists need to look at the following:
- Vision – What it wants to achieve in the future (5-10 years)
- Mission Statement – What business a company is in and how it rallies people
- Values – The fundamental beliefs of an organization reflecting its commitments and ethics
After gaining a deep understanding of the company’s vision, mission, and values, strategists can help the business undergo a strategic analysis. The purpose of a strategic analysis is to analyze an organization’s external and internal environment, assess current strategies, and generate and evaluate the most successful strategic alternatives.
Strategic Analysis Process
The following infographic demonstrates the strategic analysis process:
1. Perform an environmental analysis of current strategies
Starting from the beginning, a company needs to complete an environmental analysis of its current strategies. Internal environment considerations include issues such as operational inefficiencies, employee morale, and constraints from financial issues. External environment considerations include political trends, economic shifts, and changes in consumer tastes.
2. Determine the effectiveness of existing strategies
A key purpose of a strategic analysis is to determine the effectiveness of the current strategy amid the prevailing business environment. Strategists must ask themselves questions such as: Is our strategy failing or succeeding? Will we meet our stated goals? Does our strategy align with our vision, mission, and values?
3. Formulate plans
If the answer to the questions posed in the assessment stage is “No” or “Unsure,” we undergo a planning stage where the company proposes strategic alternatives. Strategists may propose ways to keep costs low and operations leaner. Potential strategic alternatives include changes in capital structure, changes in supply chain management, or any other alternative to a business process.
4. Recommend and implement the most viable strategy
Lastly, after assessing strategies and proposing alternatives, we reach a recommendation. After assessing all possible strategic alternatives, we choose to implement the most viable and quantitatively profitable strategy. After producing a recommendation, we iteratively repeat the entire process. Strategies must be implemented, assessed, and re-assessed. They must change because business environments are not static.
Levels of Strategy
Strategic plans involve three levels in terms of scope:
1. Corporate-level (Portfolio)
At the highest level, corporate strategy involves high-level strategic decisions that will help a company sustain a competitive advantage and remain profitable in the foreseeable future. Corporate-level decisions are all-encompassing of a company.
At the median level of strategy are business-level decisions. The business-level strategy focuses on market position to help the company gain a competitive advantage in its own industry or other industries.
At the lowest level are functional-level decisions. They focus on activities within and between different functions, aimed at improving the efficiency of the overall business. These strategies are focused on particular functions and groups.
Thank you for reading CFI’s guide to Strategic Analysis. To keep learning and advancing your career, the following CFI resources will be helpful:
- Business Life Cycle
- Competitive Advantage
- Industry Analysis
- Types of Financial Analysis
- See all management & strategy resources
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The ultimate guide to strategic analysis
Strategic analysis of an organization is an essential factor when it comes to formulating a plan for the smoother working of your company
Strategic analysis refers to the process of researching an organization and its working environment to formulate a strategy. There are many other definitions of strategic analysis with a different perspective. But they all involve a lot of common factors.
What is strategic analysis?
Strategic analysis of an organization is an essential factor for planning and optimizing your marketing strategy. With the help of strategic planning, you can align and achieve your marketing objectives with your business' overall vision.
Improvement is the one constant in any company. You need to keep improving your organization. So, to educate yourself, you must periodically conduct strategic analysis. This will then help your organization to plan ahead and determine which areas need improvement.
We've got marketing solutions to support you and your team to conduct and implement strategic analysis to optimize your marketing strategy. Our marketing tools and templates help marketers and managers to identify opportunities, react to challenges, and prioritize marketing activities to increase their ROI.
Implementing the RACE Framework to streamline analysing your marketing strategy
Our popular RACE Framework empowers marketing strategists to break down their marketing activities across their key customers' journeys. Integrated across the 5-step framework of plan - reach - act - convert - engage, our Business Members are utilizing RACE to acquire and retain more high-value customers.
The RACE Framework is all about using customer-centric data to inform your omnichannel marketing strategy. Keep reading to discover our recommendations for using strategic analysis to boost your results.
Competitor benchmarking with RACE
While you are conducting strategic analysis, you must have a good knowledge of your competitors, so you can define a strategy that will help you stand apart from them and remain competitive.
However, it's important to consider what KPIs you are actually measuring. This is where the RACE Framework comes in. As you can see, the metrics involved in reach are very different to convert, savvy marketers will adjust their goals and reporting accordingly.
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One of the most critical functions of strategic analysis is the prediction of future events and the planning of an alternative approach if the first strategy doesn't work out. Here are our recommended strategic analysis models for your business.
Internal strategic analysis
Internal Strategic Analysis will give you an overview of the functioning of your own company. In this analysis, you assess and analyze your strengths and weaknesses, and establish a strategy that will help you improve the image of your company.
The internal investigation starts with evaluating the performance and future potential of the company and its capacity to grow.
Analysis of strengths and weaknesses of the company should be solely based on the market situation and client response. The strengths only make sense when they are giving your client complete satisfaction with your service.
Along with the strengths, the strategist should also be aware of the weaknesses and liabilities of the company at that moment. The company can grow at an exponential rate if you have a sound strategy planned.
External strategic analysis
Once the organization has completed its internal analysis, they can move on to the external review. Many external factors can act as a roadblock to the organization's growth.
To conduct an external strategic analysis, you need to know how the market functions and what the consumers require. You need to measure customer satisfaction towards your and your competitors' products so that you can get an overview of how the market functions.
Strategic analysis process
There are five parts to any strategic analysis process:
Step 1: Know your goals
You need to clarify your vision before you do anything. This process consists of defining the long term and short term objectives. Your goals should be detailed, realistic and should match the value of your company.
Step 2: Collect and analyze the information
At this stage, gather as much data and information as you can. However, you need to collect the appropriate data that relates to the needs of your business.
Step 3: Construct a strategy
Strategy constructing, again, is a stepwise procedure.
- Review the information gained after completing the analysis.
- Determine the resources that business currently has, which can help you achieve their goals.
- Identify the areas where the business should take help from external resources.
- If the overall strategy does not work, then you need to have a backup plan.
Once all these factors are sorted out, you can proceed to the next step.
Step 4: Implement your strategy
After you have a structured approach, you need to implement it within the company. This is the action stage of strategic analysis. After implementation, if the overall strategy doesn't work out, you need to implement an entirely new approach.
Everyone working in the organization must be made clear of their roles and responsibilities in order to give the strategy the best chance of success.
Step 5: Evaluate and control
Strategic analysis tools.
SWOT (Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) is a framework used to evaluate a company's competitive position in the market and to develop strategic planning.
SWOT analysis assesses internal and external factors , as well as the present and future potential of your organization. Let's take a look at every element of the study.
[ Image Source ]
Strengths describe what your organization excels in and what its unique selling point that separates them from their competition is. The advantages of a company can be:
- Strong Brand
- Loyal Customers base
- Strong Balance sheet
- Unique technology
You need to develop a technique to use your strengths for your brand's marketing and attract investors.
Weaknesses stop an organization from performing to their full potential. These factors can include:
- Higher than average turnover
- High level of debt
- A weak brand
- Inadequate supply chain
- Lack of Capital
Opportunities refer to the favorable environment that could give an organization a competitive advantage.
Threats are the factors that can potentially harm an organization. For example, draught can be a threat to any water-based industry.
We use the PESTLE analysis to find out the environmental factors which can impact your business. PESTLE stands for Political, Economical, Social, Technological, Legal and Economical analysis.
All of these factors determine the strategic performance of your company. PESTLE analysis consists of the most impactful elements of any business.
Porter's Five Forces
The five elements of Porter's Five Forces are:
1. Competitive Rivalry
This will determine the number and strength of your analysis. This will consist of the following factors
- How many rivals do you have?
- Who are they?
- How does the quality of their product compare with yours?
2. Supplier Power
This will determine how easy it is for your suppliers to increase the cost of the service they are providing.
3. Buyer Power
Buyer power determines how easy it is to drive your buyers to push the price of your product down.
4. Threat of substitution
It is the likelihood of customers to find a substitute for your service or product.
5. The risk of New Entry
This will determine the ability of people to enter your market. So, you need to assess how easy it is to enter your market and how easily someone can get a foothold in your industry.
You can also incorporate scenario planning into your strategy formulation and implementation. It consists of a combination of both SWOT and PESTLE analysis to determine the scenario after you implement a strategy.
Value chain analysis
This is a basic overview of the strategic analysis process and its tools. Every organization needs to have a strategic plan and you need to find a program which will be useful as well as beneficial for the organization.
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What is Strategic Analysis?
Types of Strategic Analysis
Strategic analysis and market research, strengths of strategic analysis, weaknesses of strategic analysis.
Strategic analysis is a process that involves researching an organization’s business environment within which it operates. Strategic analysis is essential to formulate strategic planning for decision making and smooth working of that organization. With the help of strategic planning, the objective or goals that are set by the organization can be fulfilled.
In a constant strive to improve, organizations must periodically conduct a strategic analysis which will, in turn, help them determine what areas need improvement and areas that are already doing well. For an organization to function efficiently, it is important to think about how positive changes need to be implemented.
Strategic analysis is essential if a company has a goal and a mission for themselves. All leading organization who are well known for their achievements have years of strategic planning being implemented at various stages. Strategic planning is a long-term task involving continuous and systematic planning and resource investment.
The main question that a company should consider when performing a strategic analysis is: How is the market constituted? How are the active clients in this sector? While conducting strategic analysis, organizations must know their competitors and thus be able to define a strategy that will help them an unbeatable player in that market. One of the most important functions of strategic planning is to predict future events and deduce alternative strategies if a certain plan doesn’t work out as expected.
Internal strategic analysis: As the name suggests, through this analysis organizations look inwards or within the organization and identify the positive and negative points, and establish the set of resources that can be used to improve the company’s image within the market. Internal analysis starts from evaluating the performance of the organization. This includes evaluating the potential of an organization and its capacity to grow.
The analysis of the strengths of the company should be oriented to the market, focusing on the client . The strengths only make sense when they help the company to fulfill client’s needs. When doing an internal strategic analysis one should also know the weaknesses and limitations that a company faces existentially or in the future.
SWOT analysis is one of the most reputed techniques for internal strategic analysis. There is no better way to benefit from a strategically performed analysis than to use it to detect the strengths, opportunities, weaknesses, and threats that your project may suffer.
Performing SWOT analysis will help you create a strong and long term vision through strategic planning for your organization. The important thing is to constantly evaluate the environment in which the company operates, and act accordingly. It is essential for an organization to take into account the SWOT principle in order to be able to plan efficiently. Through a thorough SWOT analysis companies will be able to prevent a number of problems that can arise if there is no systematic analysis .
Let us further break down these attributes and understand how an organization can conduct a complete strategic analysis to be able to plan and perform better with each passing year.
- Strengths of a company: There are several attributes within the company that are positive, that you can control in order to obtain better results, they are your strengths , which makes you stand out from others. Surely there are certain resources or strategies that have led to your organization’s process year on year. Knowing these resources or strategies are also considered as strengths. Knowing this type of information is very important because these are the elements that give you an advantage over your competition.
- Business weakness: It is practically impossible for an organization or a company to have only strengths and not have weaknesses. Therefore, there are certain characteristics of an organization that they need to be improved in order to be able to perform better and compete in the market. These are called business weaknesses. Most of the factors are foreseeable and an organization needs to identify them well in advance and approach the problems with a corrective measure.
- Threats to an organization: There are going to negative factors that will affect the growth of the organization and these factors can be analyzed too. These factors need to detected and a risk management strategy needs to be put in place so that threats like stronger brand value of the competitors, better relationship of competitors with retailers etc. don’t have an adverse effect on the company’s growth. Also, threats like multiple players in the market with the same products, downturn in economy, better advertising of the same product by competitors are some threats that have to be dealt with carefully so that competitors don’t take advantage of the situation.
- Opportunities for the company: Detect the opportunities you have to grow. Knowing the path organizations must follow is a great step towards success. Take advantage of all those external factors that are positive for the organization. Identify all the opportunities and take advantage of them.
Learn more: Trend analysis as a strategic analysis technique
External strategic analysis: Once the organization has successfully completed its internal analysis, the organization needs to know about external factors that can be a hindrance in their growth. To do so, they need to know how the market functions and how consumers react or behave to certain products or services. Measuring customer satisfaction is a common external analysis method. PESTLE analysis is one of the most widely used external analysis techniques. The process one is most likely to adopt when using a PESTLE technique is relatively a simple one.
PESTLE analysis (Political, Economic, Social, Legal and Environmental) describes a framework of macro-environmental factors used in the environmental scanning component of external strategic analysis. The model has been extended by adding Ethics and Demographic factors. It is a part of the external analysis when conducting a strategic analysis or doing market research and gives an overview of the different macroenvironmental factors that the organization has to take into consideration. By using PESTLE analysis one can:
- Find out the key issues beyond the organization’s control, like changes in political scenario changing rules that can be implemented at any point in time.
- Identify the impact of each issue.
- See how important these issues are to the organization.
- Rate the likelihood of its occurrence.
- Briefly consider the implications if the issue did occur.
Learn more: Demographic Survey Questions Template
Market research can provide you with the necessary information to know the different market scenarios and suggest strategies to achieve more sales. Market research is either qualitative or quantitative in nature of conduct. Market research can provide you with the necessary information to know the different market scenarios and propose strategies to achieve more sales. For example, through market research, an organization can know the degree of recognition that the brand has and plan marketing campaign correctly.
Organizations can also bet effectively the introduction of a new product into the market, or innovate through the new ideas of customers. Ask the right questions to customers and get their feedback . The data provided by the investigation will help you to plan correctly what you have to do, for example, in case your competitors lower their prices, or are there changes in the behavior of your consumers ?
- Strategic analysis allows you to have clarity of the internal positive attributes of the organization that are under control. By knowing these positive attributes an organization can focus on the factors that lead to positive performance and can replicate the strategy wherever applicable.
- It helps identify strength of both internal as well as external resources, such that it leads to an increasing competitive advantage.
- It offers you the internal components that add value or offer a competitive advantage to your business. When you have a reasonable competitive advantage over you competitors half the game plan is clear. The only aspect that would need clarity is what is not going the company’s way.
- Strategic analysis can generate too many ideas, but doesn’t help to choose which one is the best.
- Sometimes too much time is spent on existential problem solving, such that there is little or no time left for innovating new products or making service level changes at the organizational level.
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What is strategic planning?
Strategic planning is a process in which an organization's leaders define their vision for the future and identify their organization's goals and objectives. The process includes establishing the sequence in which those goals should be realized so that the organization can reach its stated vision.
Strategic planning typically represents mid- to long-term goals with a life span of three to five years, though it can go longer. This is different than business planning, which typically focuses on short-term, tactical goals, such as how a budget is divided up. The time covered by a business plan can range from several months to several years.
The product of strategic planning is a strategic plan. It is often reflected in a plan document or other media. These plans can be easily shared, understood and followed by various people including employees, customers, business partners and investors.
Organizations conduct strategic planning periodically to consider the effect of changing business, industry, legal and regulatory conditions . A strategic plan may be updated and revised at that time to reflect any strategic changes.
Why is strategic planning important?
Businesses need direction and organizational goals to work toward. Strategic planning offers that type of guidance. Essentially, a strategic plan is a roadmap to get to business goals. Without such guidance, there is no way to tell whether a business is on track to reach its goals.
The following four aspects of strategy development are worth attention:
- The mission. Strategic planning starts with a mission that offers a company a sense of purpose and direction. The organization's mission statement describes who it is, what it does and where it wants to go. Missions are typically broad but actionable. For example, a business in the education industry might seek to be a leader in online virtual educational tools and services.
- The goals. Strategic planning involves selecting goals. Most planning uses SMART goals -- specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound -- or other objectively measurable goals. Measurable goals are important because they enable business leaders to determine how well the business is performing against goals and the overall mission. Goal setting for the fictitious educational business might include releasing the first version of a virtual classroom platform within two years or increasing sales of an existing tool by 30% in the next year.
- Alignment with short-term goals. Strategic planning relates directly to short-term, tactical business planning and can help business leaders with everyday decision-making that better aligns with business strategy. For the fictitious educational business, leaders might choose to make strategic investments in communication and collaboration technologies, such as virtual classroom software and services but decline opportunities to establish physical classroom facilities.
- Evaluation and revision. Strategic planning helps business leaders periodically evaluate progress against the plan and make changes or adjustments in response to changing conditions. For example, a business may seek a global presence, but legal and regulatory restrictions could emerge that affect its ability to operate in certain geographic regions. As result, business leaders might have to revise the strategic plan to redefine objectives or change progress metrics.
What are the steps in the strategic planning process?
There are myriad different ways to approach strategic planning depending on the type of business and the granularity required. Most strategic planning cycles can be summarized in these five steps:
Identify. A strategic planning cycle starts with the determination of a business's current strategic position. This is where stakeholders use the existing strategic plan -- including the mission statement and long-term strategic goals -- to perform assessments of the business and its environment. These assessments can include a needs assessment or a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis to understand the state of the business and the path ahead.
Prioritize. Next, strategic planners set objectives and initiatives that line up with the company mission and goals and will move the business toward achieving its goals. There may be many potential goals, so planning prioritizes the most important, relevant and urgent ones. Goals may include a consideration of resource requirements -- such as budgets and equipment -- and they often involve a timeline and business metrics or KPIs for measuring progress.
Develop. This is the main thrust of strategic planning in which stakeholders collaborate to formulate the steps or tactics necessary to attain a stated strategic objective. This may involve creating numerous short-term tactical business plans that fit into the overarching strategy. Stakeholders involved in plan development use various tools such as a strategy map to help visualize and tweak the plan. Developing the plan may involve cost and opportunity tradeoffs that reflect business priorities. Developers may reject some initiatives if they don't support the long-term strategy.
Implement. Once the strategic plan is developed, it's time to put it in motion. This requires clear communication across the organization to set responsibilities, make investments, adjust policies and processes, and establish measurement and reporting. Implementation typically includes strategic management with regular strategic reviews to ensure that plans stay on track.
Update. A strategic plan is periodically reviewed and revised to adjust priorities and reevaluate goals as business conditions change and new opportunities emerge. Quick reviews of metrics can happen quarterly, and adjustments to the strategic plan can occur annually. Stakeholders may use balanced scorecards and other tools to assess performance against goals.
Who does the strategic planning in a business?
A committee typically leads the strategic planning process. Planning experts recommend the committee include representatives from all areas within the enterprise and work in an open and transparent way where information is documented from start to finish.
The committee researches and gathers the information needed to understand the organization's current status and factors that will affect it in the future. The committee should solicit input and feedback to validate or challenge its assessment of the information.
The committee can opt to use one of many methodologies or strategic frameworks that have been developed to guide leaders through this process. These methodologies take the committee through a series of steps that include an analysis or assessment, strategy formulation, and the articulation and communication of the actions needed to move the organization toward its strategic vision.
The committee creates benchmarks that will enable the organization to determine how well it is performing against its goals as it implements the strategic plan. The planning process should also identify which executives are accountable for ensuring that benchmarking activities take place at planned times and that specific objectives are met.
How often should strategic planning be done?
There are no uniform requirements to dictate the frequency of a strategic planning cycle. However, there are common approaches.
- Quarterly reviews. Once a quarter is usually a convenient time frame to revisit assumptions made in the planning process and gauge progress by checking metrics against the plan.
- Annual reviews. A yearly review lets business leaders assess metrics for the previous four quarters and make informed adjustments to the plan.
Timetables are always subject to change. Timing should be flexible and tailored to the needs of a company. For example, a startup in a dynamic industry might revisit its strategic plan monthly. A mature business in a well-established industry might opt to revisit the plan less frequently.
Types of strategic plans
Strategic planning activities typically focus on three areas: business, corporate or functional. They break out as follows:
- Business. A business-centric strategic plan focuses on the competitive aspects of the organization -- creating competitive advantages and opportunities for growth. These plans adopt a mission evaluating the external business environment, setting goals, and allocating financial, human and technological resources to meet those goals. This is the typical strategic plan and the main focus of this article.
- Corporate. A corporate-centric plan defines how the company works. It focuses on organizing and aligning the structure of the business, its policies and processes and its senior leadership to meet desired goals. For example, the management of a research and development skunkworks might be structured to function dynamically and on an ad hoc basis. It would look different from the management team in finance or HR.
- Functional. Function-centric strategic plans fit within corporate-level strategies and provide a granular examination of specific departments or segments such as marketing, HR, finance and development. Functional plans focus on policy and process -- such as security and compliance -- while setting budgets and resource allocations.
In most cases, a strategic plan will involve elements of all three focus areas. But the plan may lean toward one focus area depending on the needs and type of business
What is strategic management?
Organizations that are best at aligning their actions with their strategic plans engage in strategic management. A strategic management process establishes ongoing practices to ensure that an organization's processes and resources support the strategic plan's mission and vision statement .
In simple terms, strategic management is the implementation of the strategy . As such, strategic management is sometimes referred to as strategy execution. Strategy execution involves identifying benchmarks, allocating financial and human resources and providing leadership to realize established goals.
Strategic management may involve a prescriptive or descriptive approach . A prescriptive approach focuses on how strategies should be created. It often uses an analytical approach -- such as SWOT or balanced scorecards -- to account for risks and opportunities. A descriptive approach focuses on how strategies should be implemented and typically relies on general guidelines or principles.
Given the similarities between strategic planning and strategic management, the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably.
What is a strategy map?
A strategy map is a planning tool or template used to help stakeholders visualize the complete strategy of a business as one interrelated graphic. These visualizations offer a powerful way for understanding and reviewing the cause-and-effect relationships among the elements of a business strategy.
While a map can be drawn in a number of ways, all strategy maps focus on four major business areas or categories: financial, customer, internal business processes (IBPs), and learning and growth. Goals sort into those four areas, and relationships or dependencies among those goals can be established.
For example, a strategy map might include a financial goal of reducing costs and an IBP goal to improve operational efficiency . These two goals are related and can help stakeholders understand that tasks such as improving operational workflows can reduce company costs and meet two elements of the strategic plan.
A strategy map can help translate overarching goals into an action plan and goals that can be aligned and implemented.
Strategy mapping can also help to identify strategic challenges that might not be obvious. For example, one learning and growth goal may be to increase employee expertise but that may expose unexpected challenges in employee retention and compensation, which affects cost reduction goals.
Benefits of strategic planning
Effective strategic planning has many benefits. It forces organizations to be aware of the future state of opportunities and challenges. It also forces them to anticipate risks and understand what resources will be needed to seize opportunities and overcome strategic issues.
Strategic planning also gives individuals a sense of direction and marshals them around a common mission. It creates standards and accountability. Strategic planning can enhance operational plans and efficiency. It also helps organizations limit time spent on crisis management , where they're reacting to unexpected changes that they failed to anticipate and prepare for.
Information technology is a key part of developing an effective strategic plan. Look at these six free IT strategic planning templates that can help make IT a driving force in a business.
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9 Strategic Planning Models and Tools for the Customer-Focused Business
Updated: September 06, 2022
Published: June 23, 2021
What's a plan without a strategy?
As the economist and business strategy guru, Michael Porter, says, "The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do."
With strategic planning , businesses identify their strengths and weaknesses, choose what not to do, and determine which opportunities should be pursued. In sales operations, having a clearly defined strategy will help your organization plan for the future, set viable goals, and achieve them.
So, how do you get started with strategic planning? You'll begin with strategic planning models and tools. Let's take a look at nine of the most prominent ones here.
Strategic Planning Models
Strategic planning is used to set up long-term goals and priorities for an organization. A strategic plan is a written document that outlines these goals.
Don't confuse strategic planning and tactical planning . Strategic planning is focused on long-term goals, while tactical planning is focused on the short-term.
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Here are a few strategic planning models you can use to get started.
1. The Balanced Scorecard
The Balanced Scorecard is one of the most prominent strategic planning models, tailored to give managers a comprehensive overview of their companies' operations on tight timelines. It considers both financial and operational metrics to provide valuable context about how a business has performed previously, is currently performing, and is likely to perform in the future.
The model plays on four concerns: time, quality, performance and service, and cost. The sum of those components amount to four specific reference points for goal-setting and performance measurement:
- Customer — how customers view your business
- Internal Process — how you can improve your internal processes
- Organizational Capacity — how you can grow, adapt, and improve
- Financial — your potential profitability
Those four categories can inform more thoughtful, focused goals and the most appropriate metrics you can use to track them. But the elements you choose to pursue and measure are ultimately up to you. They will vary from organization to organization — there's no definitive list.
That being said, there's a universally applicable technique you can use when leveraging the model — creating a literal scorecard. It's a document that keeps track of your goals and how you apply them. Here's an example of what that might look like:
Image Source: IntraFocus
The Balanced Scorecard is ideal for businesses looking to break up higher-level goals into more specific, measurable objectives. If you're interested in translating your big-picture ambitions into actionable projects, consider looking into it.
Example of the Balanced Scorecard
Let's imagine a B2B SaaS company that sells a construction management solution. It's been running into trouble from virtually all angles. It's struggling with customer retention and, in turn, is hemorrhaging revenue. The company's sales reps are working with very few qualified leads and the organization's tech stack is limiting growth and innovation.
The business decides to leverage a Balanced Scorecard approach to remedy its various issues. In this case, the full strategic plan — developed according to this model — might look like this:
- The company sets a broad financial goal of boosting revenue by 10% year over year.
- To help get there, it aims to improve its customer retention rate by 5% annually by investing in a more robust customer service infrastructure.
- Internally, leadership looks to improve the company's lead generation figures by 20% year over year by revamping its onboarding process for its presales team.
- Finally, the business decides to move on from its legacy tech stack in favor of a virtualized operating system — making for at least 50% faster software delivery for consistent improvements to its product.
The elements listed above address key flaws in the company's customer perception, internal processes, financial situation, and organizational capacity. Every improvement the business is hoping to make involves a concrete goal with clearly outlined metrics and definitive figures to gauge each one's success. Taken together, the organization's plan abides by the Balanced Scorecard model.
2. Objectives and Key Results
As its name implies, this model revolves around translating broader organizational goals into objectives and tracking their key results. The framework rests on identifying three to five attainable objectives and three to five results that should stem from each of them. Once you have those in place, you plan initiatives around those results.
After you've figured out those reference points, you determine the most appropriate metrics for measuring their success. And once you've carried out the projects informed by those ideal results, you gauge their success by giving a score on a scale from 0 to 1 or 0%-100%.
For instance, your goal might be developing relationships with 100 new targets or named accounts in a specific region. If you only were able to develop 95, you would have a score of .95 or 95%. Here's an example of what an OKR model might look like:
Image Source: Perdoo
It's recommended that you structure your targets to land at a score of around 70% — taking some strain off workers while offering them a definitive ideal outcome. The OKR model is relatively straightforward and near-universally applicable. If your business is interested in a way to work towards firmly established, readily visible standards this model could work for you.
Example of the Objectives and Key Results
Let's consider a hypothetical company that makes educational curriculum and schedule planning for higher-education institutions. The company decides it would like to expand its presence in the community college system in California — something that constitutes an objective.
But what will it take to accomplish that? And how will the company know if it's successful? Well, in this instance, leadership at the business would get there by establishing three to five results they would like to see. Those could be:
- Generating qualified leads from 30 institutions
- Conducting demos at 10 colleges
- Closing deals at 5 campuses
Those results would lead to initiatives like setting standards for lead qualification and training reps at the top of the funnel on how to use them appropriately, revamping sales messaging for discovery calls, and conducting research to better tailor the demo process to the needs of community colleges.
Leveraging this model generally entails repeating that process between two and four more times — ultimately leading to a sizable crop of thorough, actionable, ambitious, measurable, realistic plans.
3. Theory of Change (TOC)
The Theory of Change (TOC) model revolves around organizations establishing long-term goals and essentially "working backward" to accomplish them. When leveraging the strategy, you start by setting a larger, big-picture goal.
Then, you identify the intermediate-term adjustments and plans you need to make to achieve your desired outcome. Finally, you work down a level and plan the various short-term changes you need to make to realize the intermediate ones. More specifically, you need to take these strides:
- Identify your long-term goals.
- Backward map the preconditions necessary to achieve your goal, and explain why they're necessary.
- Identify your basic assumptions about the situation.
- Determine the interventions your initiative will fulfill to achieve your goals.
- Come up with indicators to evaluate the performance of your initiative.
- Write an explanation of the logic behind your initiative.
Here's another visualization of what that looks like.
Image Source: Wageningen University and Research
This planning model works best for organizations interested in taking on endeavors like building a team, planning an initiative, or developing an action plan. It's distinct from other models in its ability to help you differentiate between desired and actual outcomes. It also makes stakeholders more actively involved in the planning process by making them model exactly what they want out of a project.
It relies on more pointed detail than similar models. Stakeholders generally need to lay out several specifics, including information related to the company's target population, how success will be identified, and a definitive timeline for every action and intervention planned. Again, virtually any organization — be it public, corporate, nonprofit, or anything else — can get a lot out of this strategy model.
Example of the Theory of Change
For the sake of this example, imagine a business that makes HR Payroll Software — one that's not doing too well as of late. Leadership at the company feels directionless. They think it's time to buckle down and put some firm plans in motion, but as of right now, they have some big picture outcomes in mind for the company without a feel for how they're going to get there.
In this case, the business might benefit from leveraging the Theory of Change model. Let's say its ultimate goal is to expand its market share. Leadership would then consider the preconditions that would ultimately lead to that goal and why they're relevant.
For instance, one of those preconditions might be tapping into a new customer base without alienating its current one. The company could make an assumption like, "We currently cater to mid-size businesses almost exclusively, and we lack the resources to expand up-market to enterprise-level prospects. We need to find a way to more effectively appeal to small businesses."
Now, the company can start looking into the specific initiatives it can take to remedy its overarching problem. Let's say it only sells its product at a fixed price point — one that suits midsize businesses much more than smaller ones. So the company decides that it should leverage a tiered pricing structure that offers a limited suite of features at a price that small businesses and startups can afford.
The factors the company elects to use as reference points for the plan's success are customer retention and new user acquisition. Once those have been established, leadership would explain why the goals, plans, and metrics it has outlined make sense.
If you track the process I've just plotted, you'll see the Theory of Change in motion — it starts with a big-picture goal and works its way down to specific initiatives and ways to gauge their effectiveness.
4. Hoshin Planning
The Hoshin Planning model is a process that aims to reduce friction and inefficiency by promoting active and open communication throughout an organization. In this model, everyone within an organization — regardless of department or seniority — is made aware of the company's goals.
Hoshin Planning rests on the notion that thorough communication creates cohesion, but that takes more than contributions from leadership. This model requires that results from every level be shared with management — from the shop floor up.
The ideal outcomes set according to this model are also conceived of by committee — to a certain extent. Hoshin Planning involves management hearing and considering feedback from subordinates to come up with reasonable, realistic, and mutually understood goals.
Image Source: i-nexus
The model is typically partitioned into seven steps: establishing a vision, developing breakthrough objectives, developing annual objectives, deploying annual objectives, implementing annual objectives, conducting monthly and quarterly reviews, and conducting an annual review.
The first three steps are referred to as the "catchball process." It's where company leadership sets goals and establishes strategic plans to send down the food chain for feedback and new ideas. That stage is what really separates Hoshin Planning from other models.
Example of Hoshin Planning
For this example, let's imagine a company that manufactures commercial screen printing machines. The business has seen success with smaller-scale, retail printing operations — but it's realized that selling almost exclusively to that market won't make for long-term, sustainable growth.
Leadership at the company decides that it's interested in making an aggressive push to move up-market towards larger enterprise companies — but before they can establish that vision, they want to ensure that the entire company is willing and able to work with them to reach those goals.
Once they've set a tentative vision, they begin to establish more concrete objectives and send them down the management hierarchy. One of the most pressing activities they're interested in pursuing is a near-comprehensive product redesign to make their machines better suited for higher volume orders.
They communicate those goals throughout the organization and ask for feedback along the way. After the product team hears their ideal plans, it relays that the product overhaul that leadership is looking into isn't viable within the timeframe they've provided. Leadership hears this and adjusts their expectations before doling out any sort of demands for the redesign.
Once both parties agree on a feasible timeline, they begin to set more definitive objectives that suit both the company's ambitions and the product team's capabilities.
Strategic Planning Tools
There are additional resources you can use to support whatever strategic planning model you put in place. Here are some of those:
1. SWOT Analysis
SWOT analysis is a strategic planning tool and acronym for s trengths, w eaknesses, o pportunities, and t hreats. It's used to identify each of these elements in relation to your business.
This strategic planning tool allows you to determine new opportunities and which areas of your business need improvement. You'll also identify any factors or threats that might negatively impact your business or success.
Image Source: HubSpot
2. Porter's Five Forces
Use Porter's Five Forces as a strategic planning tool to identify the economic forces that impact your industry and determine your business' competitive position. The five forces include:
- Competition in the industry
- Potential of new entrants into the industry
- Power of suppliers
- Power of customers
- Threat of substitute products
To learn more, check out this comprehensive guide to using Porter's Five Forces .
3. PESTLE Analysis
The PESTLE analysis is another strategic planning tool you can use. It stands for:
- P: Political
- E: Economic
- T: Technological
- E: Environmental
Each of these elements allow an organization to take stock of the business environment they're operating in, which helps them develop a strategy for success. Use a PESTLE Analysis template to help you get started.
Visioning is a goal-setting strategy used in strategic planning. It helps your organization develop a vision for the future and the outcomes you'd like to achieve.
Once you reflect on the goals you'd like to reach within the next five years or more, you and your team can identify the steps you need to take to get where you'd like to be. From there, you can create your strategic plan.
5. VRIO Framework
The VRIO framework is another strategic planning tool that's used to identify the competitive advantages of your product or service. It's composed of four different elements:
- Value : Does it provide value to customers?
- Rarity : Do you have control over a rare resource or piece of technology?
- Imitability : Can it easily be copied by competitors?
- Organization : Does your business have the operations and systems in place to capitalize on its resources?
By analyzing each of these areas in your business, you'll be able to create a strategic plan that helps you cater to the needs of your customer.
With these strategic planning models and tools, you'll be able to create a comprehensive and effective strategic plan. To learn more, check out the ultimate guide to strategic planning next.
Editor's note: This post was originally published on May 17, 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
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SWOT analysis: Do you know your business’s strengths and weaknesses?
Strategic planning is essential for realizing your company's potential. Essential to that plan is an awareness of your company’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as understanding opportunities and threats facing your business.
A SWOT analysis takes a global view of your company but also evaluates smaller-scale elements of the business. It points out where you are strong, or not so strong, and can help you explore the opportunities and threats existing in your market. It’s this type of knowledge that makes your strategic planning that much more robust.
This is not an intellectual exercise. A SWOT analysis is the foundation of your strategic planning.
Director, Small Business, Advisory Services at BDC
What does SWOT stand for?
SWOT is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats .
Since your strengths and weaknesses are internal to your organization, and opportunities and threats external factors, SWOT analysis is sometimes called internal-external analysis.
What is a SWOT analysis?
SWOT analysis is a framework for identifying and analyzing your organization’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the opportunities and threats you are facing.
“The strengths and weaknesses should not be seen as simple attributes of your company, but more specifically as something that stacks up against your competitors or that affects your clients’ experiences,” explains Michelle Feder, Director, Small Business, BDC Advisory Services.
As for opportunities and threats, these typically refer to changes in your market, or in the wider world, that may take on a positive or negative risk for your business.
Feder says you need to capitalize on your strengths while preventing your weaknesses from becoming a liability.
Put more effort into leveraging your strengths as they will be the key to your outperformance.
Working on your organization’s weaknesses can only get you so far. While it is important to neutralize your weaknesses so that they don’t undermine your success, Feder suggests instead to keep building on your obvious strengths, the ones that will differentiate you from your competitors.
The four elements of a SWOT analysis
Strengths are the things that your company does particularly well, or resources and assets that it owns that distinguish it from your competitors. You need to know your company’s strengths; they’re what make it thrive.
Examples of strengths:
- solid financing
- a positive reputation
- valuable intellectual property
- an innovative mindset
- low production costs
- product variety
- a healthy company culture
- a strong online presence and following
Weaknesses are internal attributes and resources that your company lacks. You need to know your weaknesses because they make your business vulnerable. To identify the underlying cause of your company’s weaknesses (or its strengths), Feder suggests
using root cause analysis .
Examples of weaknesses:
- high levels of debt
- low customer satisfaction
- long delivery times
- outdated equipment and/or machinery
- gaps in expertise
- poor employee engagement and retention
- products slow to get to market
- rigid structures and a lack of agility
Opportunities are a set of external circumstances that, with the right decisions, can grow your company or put you in a favourable strategic position.
Examples of opportunities—and some possibilities for your business:
- new trade agreement—export possibilities
- new environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) reporting requirements—can showcase your track record
- buy-local trend—favours your locally made products
- work-from-home trend—can promote your communication app
- expanding industry
- new government support programs
Threats are external forces that constitute a risk to your business. Your company should be on the lookout for external obstacles; it will have to overcome them if it is to flourish. To analyze the threats (and opportunities) facing your business, Feder suggests one of the tools be a PESTLE analysis, which takes in the political, economic, sociological, technological, legal and environmental factors that influence an organization.
Examples of threats:
- new trade agreement—which can bring increased competition
- new ESG reporting requirements—with possible heavier paperwork
- supply-chain problems
- shortage of recruits
- aging customer base
- changing product standards
An example of a SWOT analysis
Abc pharmaceuticals co..
In this example, ABC Pharmaceuticals is strong in developing pharmaceuticals but weak at manufacturing them. Moreover, new reporting standards will make manufacturing more complex, while opportunities in the supply chains are opening up avenues for low-cost manufacturing. Given that its source of competitive advantage is its R&D capability, it may be better off outsourcing its manufacturing.
“ABC Pharmaceuticals’ competitive advantage is its ability to develop new formulations, and this is what it should focus on, while its competitor may be in the opposite situation and should probably focus on manufacturing,” says Feder.
When to conduct a SWOT analysis?
A SWOT analysis should be performed on a regular basis.
It’s recommended that a company perform a comprehensive analysis, using extensive data and looking at key industry players, every three to five years. The company can then spend a few hours doing a review of its initial assessment every year or every other year.
“Has anything changed in a fundamental way in the company or in the business environment?” asks Feder. Of course, the frequency of reviews and in-depth analyses will vary depending on the stability of your company and industry. “Hydro-Québec may not need to do a SWOT analysis more often than every five years,” says Feder. “On the other hand, TikTok will undoubtedly need to do it more often.”
Beyond those systematic analyses, a company can and should conduct a SWOT analysis on a smaller scale whenever it changes direction, and whenever it is facing a challenge on a more tactical level. A SWOT analysis can be very useful, for instance, if a specific business unit is underperforming or if the company wants to gain a deeper understanding of its product mix.
How often should you perform a SWOT analysis?
- In-depth analysis every 3-5 years
- Review every 1-2 years
- Small-scale analysis whenever smaller-scale problems come up, or at the department or team level
How to perform a SWOT analysis
A SWOT analysis is usually conducted in a workshop session, with leaders from every department present. Key employees and managers also typically take part in the sessions.
“You need to have a deliberate conversation about the four components of the SWOT analysis. You try to identify your strengths and weaknesses, and identify the opportunities and threats facing your company,” explains Feder.
To help with the process, it is important for everyone involved, when possible, to gather and present relevant data that point to every strength, weakness, opportunity and threat.
It can be useful to gather the following information before completing a SWOT analysis:
Outside your company:
- What are the market trends in your industry?
- What is your market share?
- Who are your main competitors?
- How can you stand out in the market?
- How do clients perceive you?
- What pitfalls and dangers await you?
Inside your company:
- Sales and marketing performance
- Financial performance and trends
- Efficiency of your systems and processes
- Key internal personnel, competencies and governance structure
- Your company’s culture and strategy
- You mission, vision and values
Consider getting an outside expert
While it’s possible for most companies to perform their own SWOT analysis, it may be a good idea to involve a neutral third party, suggests Feder.
“Leaders will sometimes sit and discuss together, and say ‘We’re strong at this and this and this,’ and before your know it, they have come up with a lengthy list of strengths while the weakness list remains pretty thin.”
Feder says that business owners are often surprised to learn that their strengths don’t necessarily lie where they thought, but also, that they have weaknesses they did not suspect they had.
Ask your clients, ask your business partners, ask your friends, ask your suppliers: what are our strengths and weaknesses?
The effort should culminate in a report summarizing the results of the analysis.
“It doesn’t need to be a long, complicated report involving the hiring of a new employee,” reassures Feder. “You can do a four-hour meeting and summarize your conclusions in a few pages, or maybe even on a white board. What’s important is for everyone to keep this framework in mind.”
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The Fall and Rise of Strategic Planning
- Henry Mintzberg
Planners shouldn’t create strategies, but they can supply data, help managers think strategically, and program the vision.
When strategic planning arrived on the scene in the mid-1960s, corporate leaders embraced it as “the one best way” to devise and implement strategies that would enhance the competitiveness of each business unit. True to the scientific management pioneered by Frederick Taylor, this one best way involved separating thinking from doing and creating a new function staffed by specialists: strategic planners. Planning systems were expected to produce the best strategies as well as step-by-step instructions for carrying out those strategies so that the doers, the managers of businesses, could not get them wrong. As we now know, planning has not exactly worked out that way.
While certainly not dead, strategic planning has long since fallen from its pedestal. But even now, few people fully understand the reason: strategic planning is not strategic thinking . Indeed, strategic planning often spoils strategic thinking, causing managers to confuse real vision with the manipulation of numbers. And this confusion lies at the heart of the issue: the most successful strategies are visions, not plans.
Strategic planning isn’t strategic thinking. One is analysis, and the other is synthesis.
Strategic planning, as it has been practiced, has really been strategic programming, the articulation and elaboration of strategies, or visions, that already exist. When companies understand the difference between planning and strategic thinking, they can get back to what the strategy-making process should be: capturing what the manager learns from all sources (both the soft insights from his or her personal experiences and the experiences of others throughout the organization and the hard data from market research and the like) and then synthesizing that learning into a vision of the direction that the business should pursue.
Organizations disenchanted with strategic planning should not get rid of their planners or conclude that there is no need for programming. Rather, organizations should transform the conventional planning job. Planners should make their contribution around the strategy-making process rather than inside it. They should supply the formal analyses or hard data that strategic thinking requires, as long as they do it to broaden the consideration of issues rather than to discover the one right answer. They should act as catalysts who support strategy making by aiding and encouraging managers to think strategically. And, finally, they can be programmers of a strategy, helping to specify the series of concrete steps needed to carry out the vision.
Planners should make their greatest contribution around the strategy-making process rather than inside it.
By redefining the planner’s job, companies will acknowledge the difference between planning and strategic thinking. Planning has always been about analysis —about breaking down a goal or set of intentions into steps, formalizing those steps so that they can be implemented almost automatically, and articulating the anticipated consequences or results of each step. “I favour a set of analytical techniques for developing strategy,” Michael Porter, probably the most widely read writer on strategy, wrote in the Economist . 1
The label “strategic planning” has been applied to all kinds of activities, such as going off to an informal retreat in the mountains to talk about strategy. But call that activity “planning,” let conventional planners organize it, and watch how quickly the event becomes formalized (mission statements in the morning, assessment of corporate strengths and weaknesses in the afternoon, strategies carefully articulated by 5 p.m. ).
Call an informal retreat “planning,” let conventional planners organize it, and watch how quickly the event becomes formalized.
Strategic thinking, in contrast, is about synthesis . It involves intuition and creativity. The outcome of strategic thinking is an integrated perspective of the enterprise, a not-too-precisely articulated vision of direction, such as the vision of Jim Clark, the founder of Silicon Graphics, that three-dimensional visual computing is the way to make computers easier to use.
Such strategies often cannot be developed on schedule and immaculately conceived. They must be free to appear at any time and at any place in the organization, typically through messy processes of informal learning that must necessarily be carried out by people at various levels who are deeply involved with the specific issues at hand.
Formal planning, by its very analytical nature, has been and always will be dependent on the preservation and rearrangement of established categories—the existing levels of strategy (corporate, business, functional), the established types of products (defined as “strategic business units”), overlaid on the current units of structure (divisions, departments, etc.). But real strategic change requires not merely rearranging the established categories, but inventing new ones.
Real strategic change requires inventing new categories, not rearranging old ones.
Search all those strategic planning diagrams, all those interconnected boxes that supposedly give you strategies, and nowhere will you find a single one that explains the creative act of synthesizing experiences into a novel strategy. Take the example of the Polaroid camera. One day in 1943, Edwin Land’s three-year-old daughter asked why she could not immediately see the picture he had just taken of her. Within an hour, this scientist conceived the camera that would transform his company. In other words, Land’s vision was the synthesis of the insight evoked by his daughter’s question and his vast technical knowledge.
Strategy making needs to function beyond the boxes, to encourage the informal learning that produces new perspectives and new combinations. As the saying goes, life is larger than our categories. Planning’s failure to transcend the categories explains why it has discouraged serious organizational change. This failure is why formal planning has promoted strategies that are extrapolated from the past or copied from others. Strategic planning has not only never amounted to strategic thinking but has, in fact, often impeded it. Once managers understand this, they can avoid other costly misadventures caused by applying formal technique, without judgment and intuition, to problem solving.
The Pitfalls of Planning
If you ask conventional planners what went wrong, they will inevitably point to a series of pitfalls for which they, of course, are not responsible. Planners would have people believe that planning fails when it does not receive the support it deserves from top management or when it encounters resistance to change in the organization. But surely no technique ever received more top management support than strategic planning did in its heyday. Strategic planning itself has discouraged the commitment of top managers and has tended to create the very climates its proponents have found so uncongenial to its practice.
The problem is that planning represents a calculating style of management, not a committing style. Managers with a committing style engage people in a journey. They lead in such a way that everyone on the journey helps shape its course. As a result, enthusiasm inevitably builds along the way. Those with a calculating style fix on a destination and calculate what the group must do to get there, with no concern for the members’ preferences. But calculated strategies have no value in and of themselves; to paraphrase the words of sociologist Philip Selznick, strategies take on value only as committed people infuse them with energy. 2
No matter how much lip service has been paid to the contrary, the very purpose of those who promote conventional strategic planning is to reduce the power of management over strategy making. George Steiner declared, “If an organization is managed by intuitive geniuses there is no need for formal strategic planning. But how many organizations are so blessed? And, if they are, how many times are intuitives correct in their judgments?” 3 Peter Lorange, who is equally prominent in the field, stated, “The CEO should typically not be…deeply involved” in the process, but rather be “the designer of [it] in a general sense.” 4 How can we expect top managers to be committed to a process that depicts them in this way, especially when its failures to deliver on its promises have become so evident?
The goal of those who promote planning is to reduce managers’ power over strategy making.
At lower levels in the hierarchy, the problem becomes more severe because planning has often been used to exercise blatant control over business managers. No wonder so many middle managers have welcomed the overthrow of strategic planning. All they wanted was a commitment to their own business strategies without having to fight the planners to get it!
The Fallacies of Strategic Planning
An expert has been defined as someone who avoids the many pitfalls on his or her way to the grand fallacy. For strategic planning, the grand fallacy is this: because analysis encompasses synthesis, strategic planning is strategy making. This fallacy itself rests on three fallacious assumptions: that prediction is possible, that strategists can be detached from the subjects of their strategies, and, above all, that the strategy-making process can be formalized.
The Fallacy of Prediction.
According to the premises of strategic planning, the world is supposed to hold still while a plan is being developed and then stay on the predicted course while that plan is being implemented. How else to explain those lockstep schedules that have strategies appearing on the first of June, to be approved by the board of directors on the fifteenth? One can just picture competitors waiting for the board’s approval, especially if they are Japanese and don’t believe in such planning to begin with.
In 1965, Igor Ansoff wrote in his influential book Corporate Strategy, “We shall refer to the period for which the firm is able to construct forecasts with an accuracy of, say, plus or minus 20 percent as the planning horizon of the firm.” 5 What an extraordinary statement! How in the world can any company know the period for which it can forecast with a given accuracy?
The evidence, in fact, points to the contrary. While certain repetitive patterns, such as seasons, may be predictable, the forecasting of discontinuities, such as a technological innovation or a price increase, is virtually impossible. Of course, some people sometimes “see” such things coming. That is why we call them “visionaries.” But they create their strategies in much more personalized and intuitive ways.
The Fallacy of Detachment.
In her book Institutionalizing Innovation, Mariann Jelinek developed the interesting point that strategic planning is to the executive suite what Taylor’s work-study methods were to the factory floor—a way to circumvent human idiosyncrasies in order to systematize behavior. “It is through administrative systems that planning and policy are made possible, because the systems capture knowledge about the task.” Thus “true management by exception, and true policy direction are now possible, solely because management is no longer wholly immersed in the details of the task itself.” 6
According to this viewpoint, if the system does the thinking, then strategies must be detached from operations (or “tactics”), formulation from implementation, thinkers from doers, and so strategists from the objects of their strategies.
The trick, of course, is to get the relevant information up there, so that senior managers on high can be informed about the details down below without having to immerse themselves in them. Planners’ favored solution has been “hard data,” quantitative aggregates of the detailed “facts” about the organization and its context, neatly packaged and regularly delivered. With such information, senior managers need never leave their executive suites or planners their staff offices. Together they can formulate—work with their heads—so that the hands can get on with implementation.
All of this is dangerously fallacious. Innovation has never been institutionalized. Systems have never been able to reproduce the synthesis created by the genius entrepreneur or even the ordinary competent strategist, and they likely never will.
Ironically, strategic planning has missed one of Taylor’s most important messages: work processes must be fully understood before they can be formally programmed. But where in the planning literature is there a shred of evidence that anyone has ever bothered to find out how it is that managers really do make strategies? Instead many practitioners and theorists have wrongly assumed that strategic planning, strategic thinking, and strategy making are all synonymous, at least in best practice.
Where in the planning literature is there a shred of evidence that anyone has bothered to find out how managers make strategies?
The problem with the hard data that are supposed to inform the senior manager is they can have a decidedly soft underbelly. Such data take time to harden, which often makes them late. They tend to lack richness; for example, they often exclude the qualitative. And they tend to be overly aggregated, missing important nuances. These are the reasons managers who rely on formalized information, such as market-research reports or accounting statements in business and opinion polls in government, tend to be detached in more ways than one. Study after study has shown that the most effective managers rely on some of the softest forms of information, including gossip, hearsay, and various other intangible scraps of information.
My research and that of many others demonstrates that strategy making is an immensely complex process, which involves the most sophisticated, subtle, and, at times, subconscious elements of human thinking.
A strategy can be deliberate. It can realize the specific intentions of senior management, for example, to attack and conquer a new market. But a strategy can also be emergent, meaning that a convergent pattern has formed among the different actions taken by the organization one at a time.
In other words, strategies can develop inadvertently, without the conscious intention of senior management, often through a process of learning. A salesperson convinces a different kind of customer to try a product. Other salespeople follow up with their customers, and the next thing management knows, its products have penetrated a new market. When it takes the form of fits and starts, discoveries based on serendipitous events, and the recognition of unexpected patterns, learning inevitably plays a, if not the, crucial role in the development of novel strategies.
Contrary to what traditional planning would have us believe, deliberate strategies are not necessarily good, nor are emergent strategies necessarily bad. I believe that all viable strategies have emergent and deliberate qualities, since all must combine some degree of flexible learning with some degree of cerebral control.
Vision is unavailable to those who cannot “see” with their own eyes. Real strategists get their hands dirty digging for ideas, and real strategies are built from the occasional nuggets they uncover. These are not people who abstract themselves from the daily details; they are the ones who immerse themselves in them while being able to abstract the strategic messages from them. The big picture is painted with little strokes.
Real strategists get their hands dirty digging for ideas, and real strategies are built from the nuggets they uncover.
The Fallacy of Formalization.
The failure of strategic planning is the failure of systems to do better than, or even nearly as well as, human beings. Formal systems, mechanical or otherwise, have offered no improved means of dealing with the information overload of human brains; indeed, they have often made matters worse. All the promises about artificial intelligence, expert systems, and the like improving if not replacing human intuition never materialized at the strategy level. Formal systems could certainly process more information, at least hard information. But they could never internalize it, comprehend it, synthesize it. In a literal sense, planning could not learn.
Formalization implies a rational sequence, from analysis through administrative procedure to eventual action. But strategy making as a learning process can proceed in the other direction too. We think in order to act, to be sure, but we also act in order to think. We try things, and those experiments that work converge gradually into viable patterns that become strategies. This is the very essence of strategy making as a learning process.
Formal procedures will never be able to forecast discontinuities, inform detached managers, or create novel strategies. Far from providing strategies, planning could not proceed without their prior existence. All this time, therefore, strategic planning has been misnamed. It should have been called strategic programming, distinguished from other useful things that planners can do, and promoted as a process to formalize, when necessary, the consequences of strategies that have already been developed. In short, we should drop the label “strategic planning” altogether.
Planning, Plans, and Planners
Two important messages have been conveyed through all the difficulties encountered by strategic planning. But only one of them has been widely accepted in the planning community: business-unit managers must take full and effective charge of the strategy-making process. The lesson that has still not been accepted is that managers will never be able to take charge through a formalized process. What then can be the roles for planning, for plans, and for planners in organizations?
Planners and managers have different advantages. Planners lack managers’ authority to make commitments, and, more important, managers’ access to soft information critical to strategy making. But because of their time pressures, managers tend to favor action over reflection and the oral over the written, which can cause them to overlook important analytical information. Strategies cannot be created by analysis, but their development can be helped by it.
Planners, on the other hand, have the time and, most important, the inclination to analyze. They have critical roles to play alongside line managers, but not as conventionally conceived. They should work in the spirit of what I like to call a “soft analyst,” whose intent is to pose the right questions rather than to find the right answers. That way, complex issues get opened up to thoughtful consideration instead of being closed down prematurely by snap decisions.
Planning as Strategic Programming.
Planning cannot generate strategies. But given viable strategies, it can program them; it can make them operational. For one supermarket chain that a colleague and I studied, planning was the articulation, justification, and elaboration of the strategic vision that the company’s leader already had. Planning was not deciding to expand into shopping centers, but explicating to what extent and when, with how many stores, and on what schedule.
An appropriate image for the planner might be that person left behind in a meeting, together with the chief executive, after everyone else has departed. All of the strategic decisions that were made are symbolically strewn about the table. The CEO turns to the planner and says, “There they all are; clean them up. Package them neatly so that we can tell everyone about them and get things going.” In more formal language, strategic programming involves three steps: codification, elaboration, and conversion of strategies.
An appropriate image for the planner is the person left behind in a meeting, together with the CEO, who helps package the strategic decisions that are symbolically strewn about the table.
Codification means clarifying and expressing the strategies in terms sufficiently clear to render them formally operational, so that their consequences can be worked out in detail. This requires a good deal of interpretation and careful attention to what might be lost in articulation: nuance, subtlety, qualification. A broad vision, like capturing the market for a new technology, is one thing, but a specific plan—35 % market share, focusing on the high end—is quite another.
Elaboration means breaking down the codified strategies into substrategies and ad hoc programs as well as overall action plans specifying what must be done to realize each strategy: build four new factories and hire 200 new workers, for example.
And conversion means considering the effects of the changes on the organization’s operations—effects on budgets and performance controls, for example. Here a kind of great divide must be crossed from the nonroutine world of strategies and programs to the routine world of budgets and objectives. Objectives have to be restated and budgets reworked, and policies and standard operating procedures reconsidered, to take into account the consequences of the specific changes.
Sometimes strategies must be left as broad visions, not precisely articulated, to adapt to a changing environment.
One point must be emphasized. Strategic programming is not “the one best way” or even necessarily a good way. Managers don’t always need to program their strategies formally. Sometimes they must leave their strategies flexible, as broad visions, to adapt to a changing environment. Only when an organization is sure of the relative stability of its environment and is in need of the tight coordination of a myriad of intricate operations (as is typically the case of airlines with their needs for complicated scheduling), does such strategic programming make sense.
Plans as Tools to Communicate and Control.
Why program strategy? The most obvious reason is for coordination, to ensure that everyone in the organization pulls in the same direction. Plans in the form of programs—schedules, budgets, and so on—can be prime media to communicate strategic intentions and to control the individual pursuit of them, in so far, of course, as common direction is considered to be more important than individual discretion.
Plans can also be used to gain the tangible as well as moral support of influential outsiders. Written plans inform financiers, suppliers, government agencies, and others about the intentions of the organization so that these groups can help it achieve its plans.
Planners as Strategy Finders.
As noted, some of the most important strategies in organizations emerge without the intention or sometimes even the awareness of top managers. Fully exploiting these strategies, though, often requires that they be recognized and then broadened in their impact, like taking a new use for a product accidentally discovered by a salesperson and turning it into a major new business. It is obviously the responsibility of managers to discover and anoint these strategies. But planners can assist managers in finding these fledgling strategies in their organizations’ activities or in those of competing organizations.
Planners can snoop around places they might not normally visit to find patterns amid the noise of failed experiments, seemingly random activities, and messy learning. They can discover new ways of doing or perceiving things, for example, spotting newly uncovered markets and understanding their implied new products.
Planners as Analysts.
In-depth examinations of what planners actually do suggests that the effective ones spend a good deal of time not so much doing or even encouraging planning as carrying out analyses of specific issues. Planners are obvious candidates for the job of studying the hard data and ensuring that managers consider the results in the strategy-making process.
Much of this analysis will necessarily be quick and dirty, that is, in the time frame and on the ad hoc basis required by managers. It may include industry or competitive analyses as well as internal studies, including the use of computer models to analyze trends in the organization.
But some of the best models that planners can offer managers are simply alternative conceptual interpretations of their world, such as a new way to view the organization’s distribution system. As Arie de Geus, the one-time head of planning at Royal Dutch/Shell, wrote in his HBR article “Planning as Learning” (March–April 1988), “The real purpose of effective planning is not to make plans but to change the…mental models that…decision makers carry in their heads.”
Planners as Catalysts.
The planning literature has long promoted the role of catalyst for the planner, but not as I will describe it here. It is not planning that planners should be urging on their organizations so much as any form of behavior that can lead to effective performance in a given situation. Sometimes that may even mean criticizing formal planning itself.
When they act as catalysts, planners do not enter the black box of strategy making; they ensure that the box is occupied with active line managers. In other words, they encourage managers to think about the future in creative ways.
Such planners see their job as getting others to question conventional wisdom and especially helping people out of conceptual ruts (which managers with long experience in stable strategies are apt to dig themselves into). To do their jobs, they may have to use provocation or shock tactics like raising difficult questions and challenging conventional assumptions.
Left- and Right-Handed Planners
Two very different kinds of people populate the planning function. One is an analytic thinker, who is closer to the conventional image of the planner. He or she is dedicated to bringing order to the organization. Above all, this person programs intended strategies and sees to it that they are communicated clearly. He or she also carries out analytic studies to ensure consideration of the necessary hard data and carefully scrutinizes strategies intended for implementation. We might label him or her the right-handed planner .
The second is less conventional but present nonetheless in many organizations. This planner is a creative thinker who seeks to open up the strategy-making process. As a “soft analyst,” this planner is prepared to conduct more quick and dirty studies. He or she likes to find strategies in strange places and to encourage others to think strategically. This person is somewhat more inclined toward the intuitive processes identified with the brain’s right hemisphere. We might call him or her the left-handed planner .
Many organizations need both types, and it is top management’s job to ensure that it has them in appropriate proportions. Organizations need people to bring order to the messy world of management as well as challenge the conventions that managers and especially their organizations develop. Some organizations (those big, machine-like bureaucracies concerned with mass production) may favor the right-handed planners, while others (the loose, flexible “adhocracies,” or project organizations) may favor the left-handed ones. But both kinds of organization need both types of planners, if only to offset their natural tendencies. And, of course, some organizations, like those highly professionalized hospitals and educational systems that have been forced to waste so much time doing ill-conceived strategic planning, may prefer to have very few of either!
The Formalization Edge
We human beings seem predisposed to formalize our behavior. But we must be careful not to go over the formalization edge. No doubt we must formalize to do many of the things we wish to in modern society. That is why we have organizations. But the experiences of what has been labeled strategic planning teach us that there are limits. These limits must be understood, especially for complex and creative activities like strategy making.
Strategy making is not an isolated process. It does not happen just because a meeting is held with that label. To the contrary, strategy making is a process interwoven with all that it takes to manage an organization. Systems do not think, and when they are used for more than the facilitation of human thinking, they can prevent thinking.
Three decades of experience with strategic planning have taught us about the need to loosen up the process of strategy making rather than trying to seal it off by arbitrary formalization. Through all the false starts and excessive rhetoric, we have learned what planning is not and what it cannot do. But we have also learned what planning is and what it can do, and perhaps of greater use, what planners themselves can do beyond planning. We have also learned how the literature of management can get carried away and, more important, about the appropriate place for analysis in organizations.
The story of strategic planning, in other words, has taught us not only about formal technique itself but also about how organizations function and how managers do and don’t cope with that functioning. Most significant, it has told us something about how we think as human beings, and that we sometimes stop thinking.
1. Michael Porter, “The State of Strategic Thinking,” Economist, May 23, 1987, p. 21.
2. Philip Selznick, Leadership in Administration: A Sociological Interpretation (New York: Harper & Row, 1957).
3. George Steiner, Strategic Planning: What Every Manager Must Know (New York: Free Press, 1979), p. 9.
4. Peter Lorange, “Roles of the CEO in Strategic Planning and Control Processes,” in a seminar on The Role of General Management in Strategy Formulation and Evaluation, cosponsored by E.S.S.E.C., E.I.A.S.M., and I.A.E. (Cergy, France: April 28–30, 1980), p. 2.
5. H. Igor Ansoff, Corporate Strategy: An Analytic Approach to Business Policy for Growth and Expansion (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965), p. 44.
6. Mariann Jelinek, Institutionalizing Innovation: A Study of Organizational Learning Systems (New York: Praeger, 1979), p. 139.
- HM Henry Mintzberg is the Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at the Desautels Faculty of Management at the University of McGill. He is the author of, most recently, Rebalancing Society: Radical Renewal Beyond Left, Right, and Center .
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Strategic Analysis: Definition, Types, and Benefits
- February 25, 2022
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When it comes to business planning, strategic analysis plays a crucial role to guide decision-making. Your organization operates in both internal and external environments and is influenced by both these environments.
Analysis of the organization helps leaders and executives decide the business’s goals and priorities. The process provides a solid ground upon which leaders establish their business plan.
In this article, we will explore the two types and the benefits of strategic market analysis. First, let’s start with the definition.
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What is strategic analysis?
Strategic analysis refers to an evaluation of an organization’s work environment. This work environment generally defines how the organization operates its business. It helps to determine the mood functioning of the organization and whether the goals and objectives set by the organization can be met.
Many experts advise conducting it in an organization from time to time. It can help uncover the areas that need changes and enhancements.
Why is strategic analysis important?
Most of the ever-growing organizations implemented strategic planning through various phases of their business. The analysis is a part of business planning that has a systematic strategy and appropriate resource investment and can help you reach your goal as an organization.
One of the main characteristics is that it makes you consider your competitors and helps you evaluate your business strategies to keep you on top of the race.
It is important because it highlights the internal and external factors that influence the organization. By evaluating the organization, you can formulate and implement strategies.
The analysis is a part of strategic planning along with strategy formulation. The analysis sets the stage for you to formulate strategies and make decisions.
What are the types of strategic analysis?
There is no defined method to evaluate the organization’s work environment. However, multiple methods can help you collect the data you need to analyze and prepare the stage for strategy formulation.
We have discussed two of the most popular analysis method – SWOT & PESTLE. Each approach offers something unique and adds value to your strategy planning. Let’s take a look at two approaches.
1. Internal strategic analysis
As the name suggests, internal analysis is conducted when an organization needs to look inside itself and define its positive and negative performances, which can be further improved with proper resource investments. Doing so will enhance the company’s image in the market.
The internal analysis focuses mainly on the organization’s performance by evaluating the potential organization to reach its goals.
The most famous and commonly used internal strategic analysis technique is the SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This technique checks the full factors inside an organization or its projects and determines how things may suffer.
- Strengths – strengths of an organization are the positive areas that help it to grow consistently. These areas in an organization need to be protected and carried forward through all the changes.
- Weaknesses – where there are strengths, there are also weaknesses. These are the areas of an organization that need to be fixed so that they can benefit the company while giving it a competitive edge over its competitors.
- Threats – there are various factors that affect an organization, but they are mostly predictable too. With a proper risk management strategy, threats like competitors’ better performance do not affect the organization’s performance.
- Opportunities – discover the opportunities an organization has to grow towards its success. Identify external opportunities and make sure you use them to the fullest.
2. External strategic analysis
Once the internal analysis is completed and the organization is foolproof from the inside, it is time to evaluate the external factors that might interrupt the organization’s growth.
External analysis to be accurate, one needs to know how the market works and how customers are affected by certain marketing strategies, products, and services that the competitors present out there.
PESTLE analysis is the commonly used external analysis technique. It stands for political, economic, social, legal, and environmental analysis, which determines the factors that affect the environment based on external strategic analysis.
It is a model that helps you to:
- Point out these factors that an organization cannot control, like political changes or environmental changes.
- Determine how each issue can impact the organization’s growth.
- Identify the issues to the organization.
- Measure the probability of that issue happening.
Now that we have described the two types of analysis you can conduct, let’s examine the advantages and disadvantages of conducting analysis.
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What are the advantages of strategic analysis?
Strategy planning is an iterative process. It does not end when you implement the plans you have devised. Once you analyze and scrutinize what’s influencing the organization and formulate strategies. You will need to implement them and go back to evaluating and planning.
The process is ongoing, however, it contributes to the growth of the business and the health of the organization.
We have listed some of the benefits of analysis:
- It helps you to determine the internal positive areas in an organization that actively helps set it to grow.
- It also indicates that these positive areas should be protected and run consistently for the organization to be leading on the right part to success.
- Strategic analysis drives out internal and external strengths and weaknesses that affect the organization’s growth.
- It helps you identify the organization’s internal aspects that add to its business advancements and use them as competitive advantages over your competitors.
What are the disadvantages of strategic analysis?
As we have established that analysis is an ongoing process, it can be considered a benefit and a disadvantage. We have found two cons of strategic market analysis that you should learn about.
- It helps you get too many creative ideas but does not tell you exactly which one to choose.
- It can sometimes be very time-consuming, affecting other efficient innovations like developing a new product or service at an organizational level.
This sums up the importance of strategic analysis in strategy planning for business growth. Analyzing the organization’s internal and external environment can ensure that your business is moving in the right direction and all the actions align with the goals.
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Strategic analysis: what it is & how to do it effectively, are you confusing strategic analysis with one of these other business functions if so, you could be focusing on the wrong priorities.strategic analysis is often confused with other types of data tracking and analysis. here’s a full definition of what it is and how it’s done, along with some helpful examples..
Unlike strategic planning and strategy execution, strategic analysis can be a fuzzy term. Sometimes it’s confused with the tracking and analysis of operational data points—an important business activity, but not one that is usually associated with strategy. Strategic analysis is a crucial part of long-term business planning and the first step in the planning process.
In this article, we’ll define strategic analysis in more detail, describe the methods used to conduct it, and list the key components of strategic analysis so you can carry it out successfully.
What is strategic analysis?
Strategic analysis (sometimes referred to as a strategic market analysis) is the process of gathering data that helps a company’s leaders decide on priorities and goals, shaping (or shifting) a long-term strategy for the business. It gives a company the ability to understand its environment, and formulate a strategic plan accordingly. Strategic analysis is paramount in any organization because it provides the context and backbone upon which the strategy and overall position of the business is formulated.
Why isn’t it enough to simply refer to quantitative data and charts to make a plan for the future? Because it is impossible for an organization to understand how it will achieve success without first having contextual information—in the form of both qualitative and quantitative data—regarding its internal resources and external environment. The process of performing a strategic analysis is what adds context to quantitative data. Spotting trends and patterns in the data and evaluating them will inform your organization’s long-term plan.
You’ll know you’re performing a strategic analysis if you are:
- Focusing on high-level strategy. If you’re prioritizing operations, sales, marketing, or any other function, organization-wide strategic analysis won’t happen. The focus should be on information that directly impacts your long-term strategies and goals.
- Looking both backward and forward. Strategic analysis means assessing data about what happened in the past, so you can determine the implications of that performance and predict what is likely to happen in the future. The better your reports are at looking backward, the better your organization will be at moving forward.
- Involving company leaders in the process. Junior analysts may assemble the information, but the leadership team needs to make decisions and take action based on the information.
You don’t do a strategic analysis once and then disregard it when your strategy is developed and implemented. To remain adaptable in a changing business environment—whether the changes are due to a growing number of employees, new government regulations, or anything else—it’s advisable to conduct a strategic analysis periodically. Organizations that are part of fast-changing industries should conduct this exercise (in abbreviated form if need be) more frequently than those that are not. Doing an annual strategic market analysis refresh will not only help your organization stay on track over the course of a few years, but can also help inform your annual slate of initiatives.
Types Of Strategic Analysis
There is no standard strategic analysis “format”; rather, there are a number of methodologies available to help guide you through the process of collecting and analyzing relevant data for strategy planning. Two of the most commonly used methods are SWOT and PESTLE.
- A SWOT analysis (which stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) helps organizations identify where they’re doing well and where they can improve, both from an internal and external perspective. Strengths and weaknesses are considered internal factors, and opportunities and threats are considered external factors.
- A PESTLE analysis focuses entirely on external factors in the political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal realms that your organization can’t control but should prepare for. Such an analysis might call attention to things like changing tax legislation, new laws or legal procedures, fluctuating interest rates, etc. Any change that might occur and would have a material impact on your business should be considered in your strategy planning.
Many organizations do both a SWOT and PESTLE analysis to get a complete picture of the business environment. Your entire leadership team should be heavily involved in these analysis sessions, as should any other personnel who can bring relevant data points or perspectives to the table. Some team members may be able to speak to strengths and weaknesses through experience; others may have access to data that supports (and provides context around) those viewpoints. A team that is knowledgeable about both the company and industry will produce the most effective strategic analysis.
Key Components In Strategic Analysis: 5 Steps
Listed below are the five steps to carrying out a strategic market analysis. But before we jump into the steps, remember: What differentiates strategic analysis from strategic decision making is that strategic analysis is only part of the decision making process. It’s a necessary (and very important) step, and will ensure you make informed and thoughtful decisions. So once you’re finished with your analysis, think of it as a tool in your decision making toolbox and refer to it often.
The five steps of a strategic market analysis are:
- Determine the level of strategic analysis you’re performing. Is your analysis intended for the corporate, divisional, or functional area (such as marketing or sales) level? It’s helpful to understand your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats at all levels of the business, so you can devise the best strategy for future progress.
- Gather a team to help. Participants should include members of the board or leadership, along with representatives from finance, human resources, operations, sales, and any other critical functions. Remember—you need people with different perspectives on the business, at least some of whom can help identify and evaluate internal and external data.
- Use one or more analytic methods such as SWOT or PESTLE to conduct your analysis. Direct team members to bring relevant quantitative and qualitative information, which may also include feedback from outside groups such as customers or industry experts, for example. Whether or not your organization uses the Balanced Scorecard (a strategy management framework), its four perspectives can be very helpful for guiding the discussion once everyone is assembled. (You can see what we mean in this SWOT analysis example. )
- Summarize your findings and present them to the team. Because the analysis will serve as the foundation of your strategy, you’ll need to prepare a document that summarizes your findings. Prepare a report that provides some context around your analysis and highlights the conclusions that were drawn, preferably in a way that’s visually pleasing. While presentation might not seem like a big deal, it is—your audience will find the information easier to read and absorb if it’s presented in an attractive way. Ultimately, you’re more likely to get buy-in for whatever strategy you devise when you show that it originated from a thoughtful, detailed analysis.
- Devise a formal strategy based on the analysis. Use your strategic analysis to organize your priorities and create goals, as well as measures and projects that will help you achieve them. How can you use your strengths to take advantage of opportunities? How can you minimize threats and weaknesses going forward? Have any new priorities emerged as a result of this analysis? Create a strategy map that visually shows your organization’s overall objectives and how they relate to one another.
Done correctly, this analysis is a valuable tool for improving business performance; it can also prompt organizations to be more innovative with their strategy.
Strategic Analysis Examples
Some organizations struggle to differentiate strategic analysis from other types of analysis; that means they’re also usually confused about what software tools should be used for the job. As co-founder of the strategy software company ClearPoint , I often find myself having conversations with prospective customers to clarify their activities (are they doing strategic planning or not?) and discuss whether ClearPoint can help. Below are summaries of three such conversations—do any of them reflect what you’re currently doing?
Story #1: Strategic Analysis Vs. Operational Data
A local government prospect asked me if ClearPoint’s software could track individual court cases and budget line items.
I explained that ClearPoint is designed to track information that enables organizations to do strategic analysis. We can track summary information—such as the total number of cases each month or budget status for projects—but not individual court cases or department expenses. Here’s why:
- Analyzing summary information is strategically useful because it provides direction for an organization’s long-term strategy. For example, if one type of court case is appearing frequently, the local government may want to change its five-year plan to increase court staffing levels or reorganize the layout of a court building. The strategic analysis might also be something the municipality communicates to lawmakers in an effort to change the way current laws are executed through the court system.
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- Tracking individual court cases or standalone budget items is operational data and not as helpful for strategic analysis. While important, operational data as individual items is too detailed to extrapolate into trends or summaries that might shift an organization’s strategy. For example, ClearPoint doesn’t track the outcome of Case #1234 and how long it took to process. The ideal way to use our system would be to analyze the average length of time to close a specific type of case, but not to track cases one by one. Another example: You can’t make strategic decisions to fund (or defund) certain projects based on a team’s expenses for new computers or division’s investment in technology upgrades.
The goal of strategic analysis is to chart performance in order to see patterns and trends, which can help predict future outcomes. Tracking one-off items won’t accomplish that goal. (Don’t get me wrong; you need to track all of the transactions, but just not in ClearPoint.)
ClearPoint can link strategic data from an operations system. This gives you the complete data story—both high-level and detailed information—within one platform.
Story #2: Strategic Analysis Vs. Data Analytics
I met with a manager at a large media corporation who inquired if ClearPoint could provide insights on its media campaigns, similar to what data visualization software like Tableau offers.
ClearPoint can report on the status, progress, and results of different campaigns or initiatives, but again is not designed to provide individual data points. For example, our platform cannot provide impressions from thousands of individuals or tweak information by demographic groups. That is data analytics, and very different from strategic market analysis. Similar to the previous section, you should look at the results of media impressions to learn how the market is reacting to your products—but those impressions or data analytics will not drive your strategy.
You should have strategic goals and measure progress in achieving those goals. Changes over time to the average reaction of those media impressions will help you make strategic decisions. ClearPoint’s strength is in summarizing and interpreting data analytics to simplify and improve management reporting, so organizations can focus on making better strategic decisions.
Story #3: Strategic Analysis Vs. Customer Relationship Management
A nonprofit organization asked me if ClearPoint could replace its customer relationship management (CRM) software.
CRM software cannot do strategy management. Managing customers and managing strategy requires very different functions and capabilities within a software platform...and it won’t surprise anyone if the strategy planning office and sales team have different opinions on which software has the biggest benefit for an organization.
Tracking all of your customer interactions and the results of those interactions isn’t a job for ClearPoint or any other strategic analysis program. To focus on strategy from a customer standpoint , you need the ability to summarize all prospect and customer information to discern trends. Then your sales leadership team can make decisions like which audiences to target, which products or services to push, etc. Again, this is managing high-level information and not one-off data points.
Both types of software are important, and they are important for solving different types of problems.
Given the pace of change in the business world, I strongly believe you need strategy at the center of your management process to ensure you're achieving your goals.
That’s not to say you should ignore operational or customer data—data that aids internal analysis in strategic management meetings is critical to your success, but it won’t determine how your business should be run. Strategy management and analysis should be the big gear that drives all the smaller gears doing operations, data analytics, and more. You likely need different tools to manage all your data, but platforms like ClearPoint can connect all the pieces to tell the entire story and help you drive your organization with strategy, not data points.
If you’re interested in a tour of our software, let us know —we’re happy to show you around!
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20 strategic planning models to consider, missing a piece of your strategic puzzle these planning models are sure to help..
In this article, 1. balanced scorecard, 2. strategy map, 3. swot analysis, 4. pest model, 5. gap planning, 6. blue ocean strategy, 7. porter’s five forces, 8. vrio framework, 9. baldrige framework, 10. okrs (objectives and key results), 11. hoshin planning, 12. issue-based strategic planning, 13. goal-based strategic planning, 14. alignment strategic planning model, 15. organic model of strategic planning, 16. real-time strategic planning, 17. scenario planning, 18. ansoff matrix, 19. 7s model, 20. constraints analysis (theory of constraints), is one strategic planning model better than the others, is there ever a need to switch strategic planning models, using clearpoint to track your strategic planning models.
Strategic planning models are designed to help organizations develop an action plan to achieve their goals. There are a lot of strategic planning models out there. We know. Which is why we pulled together a list of 20 of the most popular ones and describe the scenario that they are most useful.
I’m willing to bet one of these situations sounds familiar:
- The strategy at your organization is nonexistent, and you’re assigned to find a strategic planning model so that you can kick off your strategic planning process.
- Your company-wide strategy is in place, but entirely ineffective—and you have a hunch that using a strategic planning model (and strategy software ) will make a big difference.
- Your organization-wide strategy is fine, but there’s one area in your business environment (or internal process) that needs to be realigned with your strategy.
If you can identify with one of these scenarios, this article is for you!
Read through each of the models or find the ones you're looking for from the list below and jump right to them. Then stick around for some insight on how you can make the most of whatever strategic planning model you choose—and increase the likelihood of its success. (Hint: It’s all about performance tracking.)
The Balanced Scorecard is a strategy management framework created by Drs. Robert Kaplan and David Norton. It takes into account your:
- Objectives , which are high-level organizational goals.
- Measures , which help you understand if you’re accomplishing your objective strategically.
- Initiatives , which are key action programs that help you achieve your objectives.
There are many ways you can create a Balanced Scorecard, including using a program like Excel , Google Sheets, or PowerPoint or using reporting software. For the sake of example, the screenshot below is from ClearPoint’s reporting software.
This is just one of the many “views” you’d be able to see in scorecard software once your BSC was complete. It gives you high-level details into your measures and initiatives and allows you to drill down into each by clicking on them. At a glance, you can tell what the RAG status of each objective, measure, or initiative is. (Green indicates everything is going as planned, while yellow and red indicate that there are various degrees of trouble with whatever is being looked at.)
All in all, a Balanced Scorecard is an effective, proven way to get your team on the same page with your strategy.
See Also: A Full & Exhaustive Balanced Scorecard Example
A strategy map is a visual tool designed to clearly communicate a strategic plan and achieve high-level business goals. Strategy mapping is a major part of the Balanced Scorecard (though it isn’t exclusive to the BSC) and offers an excellent way to communicate the high-level information across your organization in an easily-digestible format.
A strategy map offers a host of benefits:
- It provides a simple, clean, visual representation that is easily referred back to.
- It unifies all goals into a single strategy.
- It gives every employee a clear goal to keep in mind while accomplishing tasks and measures.
- It helps identify your key goals.
- It allows you to better understand which elements of your strategy need work.
- It helps you see how your objectives affect the others.
See Also: A Strategy Map Template For Medium-Sized Companies
A SWOT analysis (or SWOT matrix) is a high-level model used at the beginning of an organization’s strategic planning. It is an acronym for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.” Strengths and weaknesses are considered internal factors , and opportunities and threats are considered external factors .
Below is an example SWOT analysis from the Queensland, Australia, government:
Using a SWOT analysis as part of your strategic business model helps an organization identify where they’re doing well and in what areas they can improve. If you’re interested in reading more, this Business News Daily article offers some additional details about each area of the SWOT analysis and what to look for when you create one.
See Also: SWOT Analysis Template (+ Seven Other Strategic Planning Templates)
Like SWOT, PEST is also an acronym—it stands for “political, economic, sociocultural, and technological.” Each of these factors is used to look at an industry or business environment, and determine what could affect an organization’s health. The PEST model is often used in conjunction with the external factors of a SWOT analysis. You may also run into Porter’s Five Forces (see #7 below), which is a similar take on examining your business from various angles.
You’ll occasionally see the PEST model with a few extra letters added on. For example, PESTEL (or PESTLE) indicates an organization is also considering “environmental” and “legal” factors. STEEPLED is another variation, which stands for “sociocultural, technological economic, environmental, political, legal, education, and demographic.”
See Also: PEST Analysis Template (+ Seven Other Strategic Planning Templates)
Gap planning is also referred to as a “Need-Gap Analysis,” “Need Assessment,” or “the Strategic-Planning Gap.” It is used to compare where an organization is now, where it wants to be, and how to bridge the gap between. It is primarily used to identify specific internal deficiencies.
In your gap planning research, you may also hear about a “change agenda” or “shift chart.” These are similar to gap planning, as they both take into consideration the difference between where you are now and where you want to be along various axes. From there, your planning process is about how to ‘close the gap.’
The chart below, for example, demonstrates the difference between the projected and desired sales of a mock company:
See Also: Gap Planning Template (+ Seven Other Strategic Planning Templates)
Blue Ocean Strategy is a strategic planning model that emerged in a book by the same name in 2005. The book—titled “Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant”—was written by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, professors at the European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD).
The idea behind Blue Ocean Strategy is for organizations to develop in “uncontested market space” (e.g. a blue ocean) instead of a market space that is either developed or saturated (e.g. a red ocean). If your organization is able to create a blue ocean, it can mean a massive value boost for your company, its buyers, and its employees.
For example, Kim and Mauborgne explain via their 2004 Harvard Business Review article how Cirque du Soleil didn’t attempt to operate as a normal circus, and instead carved out a niche for itself that no other circus had ever tried.
Below is a simple comparison chart from the Blue Ocean Strategy website that will help you understand if you’re working in a blue ocean or a red ocean:
See Also: Blue Ocean Analysis Template (+ Seven Other Strategic Planning Templates)
Porter’s Five Forces is an older strategy execution framework (created by Michael Porter in 1979) built around the forces that impact the profitability of an industry or a market. The five forces it examines are:
- The threat of entry. Could other companies enter the marketplace easily, or are there numerous entry barriers they would have to overcome?
- The threat of substitute products or services. Can buyers easily replace your product with another?
- The bargaining power of customers. Could individual buyers put pressure on your organization to, say, lower costs?
- The bargaining power of suppliers. Could large retailers put pressure on your organization to drive down the cost?
- The competitive rivalry among existing firms. Are your current competitors poised for major growth? If one launches a new product or files a new patent—could that impact your company?
The amount of pressure on each of these forces can help you determine how future events will impact the future of your company.
See Also: Porter’s Five Forces Template (+ Seven Other Strategic Planning Templates)
The VRIO framework is an acronym for “ v alue, r arity, i mitability, o rganization.” This strategic planning process relates more to your vision statement than your overall strategy. The ultimate goal in implementing the VRIO model is that it will result in a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Here’s how to think of each of the four VRIO components:
- Value: Are you able to exploit an opportunity or neutralize an outside threat using a particular resource?
- Rarity: Is there a great deal of competition in your market, or do only a few companies control the resource referred to above?
- Imitability: Is your organization’s product or service easily imitated, or would it be difficult for another organization to do so?
- Organization: Is your company organized enough to be able to exploit your product or resource?
Once you answer these four questions, you’ll be able to formulate a more precise vision statement to help carry you through all the additional strategic elements in your plan.
See Also: VRIO Analysis Template (+ Seven Other Strategic Planning Templates)
The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award is “the highest level of national recognition for performance excellence that a U.S. organization can receive.” Created in 1987, the goal of Baldrige is to help organizations innovate and improve, while achieving their mission and vision. The award is currently open to manufacturing, service, small business, nonprofit, government, education, and healthcare sectors.
When applying to win the Baldrige award at the national level, organizations undergo a competitive process that involves the implementation of the Baldrige framework. The framework outlines the “Baldrige Criteria For Performance Excellence,” where organizations must demonstrate achievement and improvement to an independent board of examiners in these seven areas:
- Planning and strategy
- Measurement, analysis, and knowledge management
To implement the Baldrige framework in your organization, start with two questionnaires that help you self-assess based on the seven Baldrige Criteria categories, and get a snapshot of your strengths and opportunities for improvement.
The strategic planning model of choice for Google, Intel, Spotify, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many other Silicon Valley successes, the OKR framework , is one of the more straightforward strategic planning tools. It’s designed to create alignment and engagement around measurable goals by clearly defining:
- Objectives: What you want to achieve. Choose three to five objectives that are brief, inspiring, and time-bound.
- Key Results: How you’ll measure progress toward your achievements. Set three to five key results (they must be quantitative) per objective.
The strategic planning model of choice for many businesses—including Google, Intel, Spotify, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many other Silicon Valley successes— the OKR framework is also effective because goals are continually set, tracked, and re-evaluated so organizations can quickly adapt when needed. This is a fast-paced, iterative approach that flips the traditional top-down strategic models. The RACI matrix is a helpful visual for defining the role each person in your organization has for projects and processes, ensuring it aligns with their OKRs.
See a strategic planning model fits your business? Download one of these free templates to put your planning process in play instantly.
The Hoshin Planning approach aligns your strategic goals with your projects and tasks to ensure that efforts are coordinated. This strategic management model is less focused on measures and more on goals and initiatives.
Some sources cite up to seven steps in the Hoshin Planning model, but the four most critical are:
- Identify key goals. Ideally you’d focus on three to five goals.
- Play “catchball.” Share goals from top to bottom of your organization to obtain buy-in.
- Gather intel through “gemba.” Track the execution of your key goals and gather feedback from employees, using a defined process.
- Make adjustments. Initiate change based on feedback and repeat the steps of catchball and gemba.
You visualize your objectives, measures and targets, measure programs, and action items in a Hoshin Planning matrix. Four directional quadrants (north, south, east, west) inform each other and demonstrate alignment.
The issue-based strategic model is oriented in the present and projects into the future. It aims to identify the major challenges your organization faces now —in other words, you start with the problems to iron out issues before expanding, shifting your strategy, etc. This is typically a short-term (6-12 months), internally-focused process. Issue-based planning is ideal for young or resource-restricted organizations.
The leadership team or stakeholders identify the major issues and goals as a first step. Next, your organization will create action plans to address the issues, including budget allocation. From there, you will execute and track progress. After an issues-based plan has been implemented and the major issues you identified are resolved, then your organization might consider shifting to a broader, more complex strategic management model.
Goal-based strategic planning is the reverse of issue-based. This approach works backward from the future to the present. It all starts with your organization’s vision.
By nature, vision statements are aspirational and forward-thinking, but they need specifics in order to be realized. Goal-based planning tackles that challenge by setting measurable goals that align with your vision and strategic plan. Next, you define time frames for goal achievement. This is a long-term strategic planning tool, so goal time frames are typically about three to five years. From there, stakeholders will create action plans for each goal and begin tracking and measuring progress.
You want your department to be able to see their goals and the steps to achieve them. Use a Department Business Plan Dashboard
Similar to issue-based planning, the alignment model focuses on first looking internally to develop a strategy. This model is designed to sync the organization’s internal operations with its strategic goals.
Your strategic planning will start by identifying a goal and analyzing which operations or resources need to be aligned with that goal. Then you’ll identify which parts of operations are working well and which are not, brainstorming ideas from the successful aspects on how to address problems. Finally, you’ll create a series of proposed changes to operations or processes to achieve goals that will create the desired strategic alignment. The alignment strategic planning model is particularly useful when a company needs to refine its objectives or address ongoing challenges or inefficiencies that are blocking progress.
The organic model takes an unconventional approach because it focuses on the organization’s vision and values, versus plans and processes. With this model, a company uses “natural,” self-organizing systems that originate from its values and then leverages its own resources to achieve goals, conserve funds, and operate effectively.
The organic model takes an unconventional approach because it focuses on the organization’s vision and values, versus plans and processes. Click To Tweet
In the simplest form, there are three basic steps to follow when implementing the organic model of strategic planning:
- Stakeholders clarify vision and values. This is a collaborative process that could involve both external and internal stakeholders—who’s in the meeting depends entirely on your organization’s ultimate purpose for the planning. The goal is to establish common visions and values for all stakeholders.
- Stakeholders create personal action plans. The unconventional aspect of this model comes into play here. Divided into small groups, stakeholders determine the actions and responsibilities for each person to work toward the vision (according to the values).
- Stakeholders report results of action plans. Each person will take ownership of their plan and update the group on their progress. This is a communal approach to accountability and the progress reported can lean toward qualitative, versus quantitative, results.
What type of company would the organic strategic planning model work best for? If your organization has a large, diverse group of stakeholders that need to find common ground, a vision that will take a long time to achieve, and a strong strategic emphasis on vision and values (instead of structure and procedures), this may be the right model for you. It would also be beneficial for younger organizations that need to gain funding without presenting a formal strategic plan.
Similar to the organic model, real-time strategic planning is a fluid, nontraditional system. It’s primarily used by organizations that need to be more reactive, and perform strategic planning in “real time.” For these companies, detailed, long-term plans tend to become irrelevant within the typical three- to five-year planning cycle because the environment they operate in rapidly changes. Many nonprofits use this model—for example, a disaster relief agency needs the ability to respond quickly and adapt its strategy to immediately address a crisis.
Real-time strategic planning involves three levels of strategy: organizational, programmatic, and operational. For the first level, you’ll define the organization’s mission, vision, market position, competitors, trends, etc. Then, the programmatic strategy requires research into the external environment to identify approaches and offerings that would help the organization achieve its mission. The research should cover opportunities, threats, competitive advantages, and other points to spur strategic brainstorming.
The final operational level analyzes internal processes, systems, and personnel to develop a strategy that addresses “in-house” strengths and weaknesses. Looking at all three levels as a whole, strategy leaders can form criteria for developing, testing, implementing, and adapting strategies on an ongoing basis, allowing for quick and thoughtful responses when needed.
In planning for their own future, too few organizations take the time to consider the multitude of external changes that could take place that would impact their plans. A healthcare company that fails to anticipate certain regulatory actions, an energy company that ignores the possibility of rising oil prices, and a global organization that hasn’t examined the potential for supply chain disruptions may all be impacted by those changes to some degree if they happened. And it isn’t just about mitigating the possible risks; it’s also about pursuing potential opportunities.
Scenario planning involves examining the variable elements of your environment, evaluating them for plausibility and impact, and factoring those scenarios that are most relevant into your decision-making. Two to five scenarios is the ideal number—this lets you explore a variety of themes without getting mired down in too many possibilities. Other frameworks (like SWOT or PESTLE) can be useful in developing those scenarios.
You can use scenario planning at the individual and departmental levels, but it is especially useful for organizational strategy planning. If your company is part of an industry that tends to be volatile or your organization itself has had to navigate costly, unexpected changes in the past, scenario planning is an excellent tool for developing your strategic vision. It can also be used to foster managerial thinking, encouraging leaders to consider the broadest range of future possibilities, and provide guidance when evaluating new projects or investment proposals.
(Image Source SME Strategy )
The Ansoff Matrix was developed to help organizations plan their strategies for growth. It is a 2x2 matrix with product on one axis and markets on the other axis. Depending on the box you are in, you may choose a different strategy for growth:
- Market penetration: Expand sales of an existing product in an existing market
- Product development: Introduce a new product into an existing market
- Market development: Introduce an existing product into an entirely new market
- Diversification: Introduce a new product into a new market
The level of risk increases with each strategy, with market penetration being the least risky and diversification being the most risky.
The Ansoff Matrix is useful for organizations that are actively trying to grow. Not only does it help you analyze and clarify your current strategy, but it also helps evaluate the risks associated with moving to a new strategy. SWOT and PEST are often used in combination with the Ansoff Matrix; business strengths and weaknesses as well as external factors should all play into your choice of growth strategy.
Developed by McKinsey consultants, this strategic business planning model emphasizes the importance of aligning an organization’s key internal elements to achieve strategy. Those key elements are:
- Structure: The organizational chart or chain of command
- Strategy: The future plan of action, supported by an organization’s mission and vision
- System: The technical infrastructure that enables daily workflows
- Skill: The capabilities of team members
- Style: The management style of leaders
- Staff: Employees and how they are recruited, trained, and motivated
- Shared value: The norms, values, and beliefs that guide actions and decisions
The first step in applying the 7S model is to examine the current interconnectedness of these elements within your own organization; are there areas of weakness or inconsistencies? For example, you might discover that your skills training for employees is hindered by antiquated workflows and technology. Once you understand the relationships between these elements, you can work toward creating synergies that better support your strategy, whatever it may be.
The 7S model is best used during a strategy change, or whenever a major shift is occurring in any one of the seven areas.
Constraints analysis is predicated on the idea that there are clear obstacles to strategy execution within your organization. Eliminating the weak link (or at least improving performance in that area) is the key to better results.
To apply constraints analysis correctly, you must first identify the constraint, or the main factor that limits your success. Process bottlenecks, faulty thinking, labor shortages, an unhealthy company culture, market conditions, or any number of other issues could be the culprit. While you might identify more than one problem area, constraints analysis focuses on improving one area at a time to achieve quick, impactful results.
That’s a great question—and the answer isn’t cut and dried. Some of these frameworks have been around longer than others, or have been used in various case studies in different ways. And sometimes managers are more comfortable with one over another, for any number of reasons.
We recommend determining which of these strategic planning models applies most to your organization’s way of thinking. For example, if you still need to work out your vision statement, it may be wise to begin with the VRIO framework and then move to something like the Balanced Scorecard to track and manage your ongoing strategy.
If you are set on pitching a particular strategic planning model to management, be prepared to give your boss or board of directors an example of another successful company that has utilized that particular model. An actual demonstration of success will make a somewhat abstract concept become more concrete.
If you are evaluating different approaches, I would recommend thinking about both creating your strategic plan and also executing on your plan. It doesn’t do you any good to have a strategic plan and not put it to use.
Yes. As your organization grows and changes, the frameworks you use to manage your strategy will change too. There are a lot of options out there—even more than the 20 we’ve explored above! It’s reasonable to expect that the framework you use today won't necessarily match your organization’s needs 10 or even five years from now. The added complexities of a growing business may make it necessary to rethink your approach to strategy planning. For example, the Balanced Scorecard might work well for tracking organizational and departmental plans, but you may eventually want a system that easily extends to the individual level. For that, you might add OKRs to your management framework.
You can also combine strategic planning models. Some organizations use elements of two or more frameworks to create a custom approach. Great! Every organization manages differently; your planning model should reflect your approach. But it’s always easier to have a starting point, which is why these frameworks exist in the first place.
Framework choices—and even strategies themselves—are flexible, but what’s not flexible is the need for software to track your performance.
Tracking is the only way to know if your strategic plan is working—if the data shows your actions aren’t making an impact, you need to make a change. While most organizations understand that tracking itself is a necessity, they’re using the wrong tools to do it.
The most common alternative to strategy software is Excel. Excel may be a familiar and affordable tool, but it’s costing your organization dearly in ways you may not have thought of:
For decision-makers, Excel-based reports are difficult to digest, which negatively impacts decision-making. Excel was built for numbers but it wasn’t built to easily show analysis and recommendations or real-time data, all of which are essential components of tracking. On top of that, spreadsheets simply make it harder to understand performance data. As a result, your leadership team isn’t getting all the information they need to make strategic decisions.
For the strategy and reporting teams, the use of spreadsheets and the manual collection and updating they require is a tremendous waste of time and a constant headache. There is also inherent risk—even with the most meticulous and careful management—in manual updating and version control across large and elaborate spreadsheets.
No doubt about it, Excel is, in fact, a somewhat costly tool. There is a better way—software exists that automates data updating and collects everything in one place for faster, safer, and better reporting.
Strategy software like ClearPoint was built exclusively for strategy performance reporting. So not only does it solve the above issues but it actually improves the likelihood of executing your strategy successfully. Here’s why:
- You’ll have a “set it and forget it” system in place for performance tracking. There’s no need to recreate new reports for every reporting period, or run around collecting data repeatedly from across the company. ClearPoint automatically pulls in your strategic data from the various repositories you set, making the process automatic. That means you’re more likely to stick with it over the long term.
- You can create either high-level summary reports or detailed data reports (or both!).
- You can use the executive dashboard template (or any other type of dashboard ) to develop a summary presentation of the strategic information your leadership needs to quickly grasp what's going well and what’s not.
- You can incorporate qualitative data and analysis into your reports, giving you a more nuanced, effective way to tell the story of performance.
- You can use real-time data to make sure your reports are as up-to-date as possible.
- You’ll be confident you’re working on the right things. In ClearPoint you can connect projects and measures directly to your overall goals so you can clearly see how your activities support your objectives.
- Your employees’ work will support organizational goals. You can create a comprehensive performance plan in ClearPoint that includes individual performance management, so your employees will understand how their daily activities contribute to the larger goals of the company.
Another important benefit: ClearPoint will improve your strategy team’s productivity by simplifying the strategy reporting process. (One ClearPoint customer was able to reduce the cost of its monthly management board reporting by 70%!) To learn more about how ClearPoint addresses the day-to-day challenges of strategy reporting, read our Ultimate Guide on the subject.
If you’d like to learn more about ClearPoint, we’d love to talk with you! ClearPoint works with any and all of the strategic planning models mentioned above (the same can’t be said for other strategy software tools), so no matter which direction you’re planning to go, we can go with you. See how ClearPoint can help you achieve more— reach out to us today!
Balanced Scorecard — 8 min read
The Balanced Scorecard: What Is It? (Definition + Examples)
Balanced scorecard — 13 min read, how to effectively communicate your strategic plan to employees.
By Andreas Hofmann
Balanced Scorecard — 9 min read
ClearPoint’s 15 Most Popular Strategic Planning Templates
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Looking for a way to take your company in a new and profitable direction? It starts with strategic planning. Keep reading to learn what a strategic plan is, why you need it and how you can strategically create one.
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